Friday, June 17, 2005


There's an apparent paradox. I like the idea of nonpartisan redistricting (see The Carpetbagger Report for a good nationwide plan). But I don't like the nonpartisan plan Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing for California.

Most current redistricting schemes follow one of two models, both of which are bad for voters. States with strong one-party government, like Florida, tend toward partisan gerrymanders that further strengthen the party in power. For 2004, Texas tilted the scales with an unprecedented mid-decade remap, which gained the Republicans five seats in the House. States with divided government or weak one-party government (in 2001, Illinois and California, respectively) tend to optimize for bipartisan incumbent protection. Their lucky politicians have hand-tailored "designer districts." Illinois' last remap was particularly elegant that way: every serious challenger to an incumbent congressman got shifted into another district.

Either way, the voters get ripped off. Partisan gerrymanders make delegations less representative of the electorate. Bipartisan gerrymanders make it harder to challenge entrenched incumbents. Both schemes make politicians less accountable to voters.

Schwarzenegger's ballot initiative would take redistricting power from the state legislature and give it to a panel of retired judges. Why don't I like it? It's a matter of fairness. Republicans in Texas have given an unfair advantage to the national Republican party. Democrats in California should keep the ability to fight back. Arnold certainly won't help Democrats redistrict, but he won't be Gubernator forever. A nationwide solution hits both sides the same, rather than just one of them.

Arnold's redistricting is unilateral disarmament for one side, while his side breaks all the rules. When a charismatic Austrian pushes that kind of scheme, should you do what he wants?


Blogger Scorpio said...

It's just a hop from "charismatic Austrian" to the H word.

Nevertheless, it would be great if Ah-nold lost his reelection bid.

9:29 AM  

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