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Needed: More Dem Scrutiny of Redistricting Campaigns

by EDM staff

Nancy Vogel has a good wrap-up of several proposals to redistrict congressional elections around the country in the L.A. Times. Her article "Several States May Revisit Redistricting" also presents a summary of arguments for and against 'bipartisan' redistricting, focused primarilly on California, where voters will decide on Prop 77, which would put redistricting in the hands of three retired judges. The stakes are high, and Dems need to pay closer attention to these redistricting campaigns, any one of which could alter national politics in short order. Vogel quotes Nathaniel Persily, a redistricting expert who is a professor of law and political science at the University of Pennsylvania on the impact:

"To some extent, the power to draw lines is more important than the power of voting...The redistricting process is often more determinative of who wins elections than the voting in elections itself."

While the Schwarzenegger-led California proposal is a fairly transparent political power grab, other equally-partisan initiatives have been more cleverly shrouded in bipartisan wrapping paper. At present Prop 77 is opposed by a 46 percent of voters, with 32 percent supporting it, according to a September Field poll cited by Vogel. Recent redistricting initiatives implemented in Texas and Georgia benefitted the GOP, as would Prop 77. But redistricting reforms proposed in Florida and Ohio are being supported by leading Democrats.

Pro-redistricting campaigns are underway in 12 states. At present 12 states prohibit lawmakers from drawing legislative boundaries and six states ban lawmakers from drawing congressional district boundaries.

Democrats should stay focused on winning hearts and minds in all congressional districts, but there is also a compelling need to defeat those redistricting proposals designed to undercut their strength in key states.