Thursday, March 2, 2006
The New York Times argued in yesterday's editorial that the Supreme Court should declare the Texas Congressional district map unconstitutional.
The Times notes that "(t)he Supreme Court has acknowledged that partisan gerrymandering can violate the Constitution". I do not see where the text of the Constitution prohibits partisan gerrymandering, but perhaps someone can point it out to me.
More specifically, the Times says that Texas Democrats argue "the Constitution prohibits legislators from redrawing election districts in the middle of a decade solely to achieve partisan advantage." Texas Democrats may want to revisit this argument, because there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits any such thing.
The Times goes on to argue that the redistricting plan should be thrown out because over one million people were added to the population of Texas between the 2000 census and the 2003 redistricting. The Texas GOP used the 2000 census data. The problem with the NYT's argument is that, by their own standard, the previous Congressional district map was also in violation of the constitution when demographic changes made the map outdated in two short years.
The Times is right when it says that gerrymandering should be a bipartisan issue. When Congressional, state legislative or local government elections are a forgone conclusion because partisans have drawn the maps to virtually guarantee one party a victory, elected officials become less accountable to the voters and voter participation is stifled. Why turn out to vote when district maps give one party a massive advantage?
Gerrymandering, of course, is a bipartisan failing. For local examples, see the 2001 Monroe County Council districts and the Indiana Congressional districts, both drawn by Democrats.
There have been attempts at reform. A ballot initiative backed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to turn redistricting over to a non-partisan committee failed in last year's special election. A similar proposal by Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma died in the state legislature earlier this year. There is an undercurrent of support for redistricting reform, and I believe this is something the voters would support in the right circumstances and given the right plan. In the 2006 legislative elections, Hoosier voters should make sure this is an issue.