Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sonny to Athens: Redistrict this, bitches!

Well, as you all know by now, Athens has been cleaved in twain.  Frankly, other than the timing of the Governor actually signing the bill (on which I totally screwed the pooch), it was more or less a forgone conclusion.  

Speaking of redistricting, in a semi-related story, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Texas redistricting case yesterday.  They’re probably not going to change anything though.  The Texas redistricting case stems from an unscheduled redistricting that took place after the requisite post-Census reapportionment – similar hijinks to what the GOP pulled in Georgia after they got their majority in 2002.  The Texas case arguments stem from two areas, first the usual argument that minority voting strength was diluted, and second, that redistricting anytime except after a Census is illegal.  Don’t expect that latter argument to gain much traction.  According to a Washington Post story today, the opinion of the Court seems to be that if you ban mid-decade redistricting, you have no recourse to undo partisan redistricting that did happen at the right time.  (Some would say that undoing previous partisan redistricting is exactly what the GOP did in 2002, and to be fair, they’re right.)

Anyway, the redistricting is off to the Department of Justice.  Given what happened with the much more egregiously bad Voter ID Law, you can expect DOJ to pass it without objections.

So, where do we go from here?  Here’s what your crack editorial staff thinks.    There are two strategies that people who are righteously pissed about splitting Athens, a long term approach and a short term approach should consider.  You’ve got to concentrate on both.

In the short term, it’s time to buckle down and get to work.  Give Jane Kidd some money – she may not be perfect, but she’s the best we’ve got.  If you can’t give money (hey, I’m poor too, I dig you), give of your time.  Go knock on some doors, make some calls for Jane Kidd.  Tell your neighbors and your friends.  Find a candidate to run against Hudgens and make this the issue.  Not redistricting, per se, but the fact that Hudgens thinks that Athens and the counties surrounding us are his own personal fiefdom.  

Now, in the long term, it gets more complicated than just finding a candidate and working for them.  That’s right, I’m about to start beating the drum for redistricting reform again, and I’ll tell you what, if you’re not rattling cages on redistricting reform, then don’t ever speak negatively about “politics as usual.”  It’s time to take the maps out of the greasy, sweaty hands of the professional politicians.  Stop letting the foxes guard the electoral henhouse.  We would suggest that any candidate (especially around Athens right now) who could explain why redistricting is corrupt and pledge to push for measures that will make it nonpartisan and apolitical, would do very well.  

Your thoughts on redistricting below.

1 comment:

James Garland said...

Hi All

This is verbatim from the copy that will appear on my campaign web site, which will naturally have a page concerning my policy proposals (not the least of which concerns redistricting). The site should be up and running in a couple of weeks (we're not quite there yet, and it didn't cost anywhere near $2500).


The Commission should ask Clarke County’s legislative delegation to introduce a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of the General Assembly. Though relying on an extra-legislative commission is not without its own drawbacks, given the opportunity to do so, neither major political party has shown itself able to resist the temptation to gerrymander the state’s legislative and/or congressional districts.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, twelve states have commissions charged with the “primary responsibility” for legislative redistricting, two others employ “advisory commissions” and a further five have instituted “backup commissions.” Six states give commissions the “primary responsibility” for congressional redistricting; another state employs a “fallback commission” for that purpose. Additionally, movements are underway to establish redistricting commissions charged with “primary responsibility” in California, Florida, and Texas. Uniquely, Iowa utilizes a non-partisan legislative staff process to redistrict for both its legislative and congressional representation, which then must be approved by the state legislature.

Of course, the particular makeup and procedures of each commission vary from one state to another. I am not recommending a particular composition or practice, merely suggesting that the Commission ask that the General Assembly begin the process of redistricting reform.