Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Are Ballot Initiatives The Way To Get Around Partisan Gerrymandering?


I remember, many years ago, someone suggesting that California-- the biggest blue state-- and Texas-- the biggest red state-- both dump gerrymandering simultaneously. Texas wasn't paying any attention and eventually California went ahead on its own and legislated that district lines would be drawn by a non-partisan commission. Texas is still one of the half dozen or so most corruptly-gerrymandered states in the union-- along with North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.

When Obama and Holder announced last year that they would devote some of their post-administration energy to curing gerrymandering, I was heartened-- until I learned that they hired tragic DCCC hack Kelly Ward, who loses at everything she does, as their organization's executive director. Nothing Kelly Ward is involved with has any chance of succeeding. Maybe, I thought, this can be revisited in a decade when Ward moves on to the next organization she can ruin. Then, yesterday, I saw an interesting piece in The Hill by Reid Wilson, Gerrymandering opponents turn to ballot initiatives to redraw lines. Ward and her National Democratic Redistricting Committee aren't part of it, so... there's hope. It's all about using citizens' ballot initiatives to overcome resistance by Republican lawmakers and governors.
Supporters of a proposal to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission in Michigan say they will turn in more than 400,000 signatures by the end of the year. They need 315,000 of those signatures to be valid in order to qualify for next year’s ballot.

In Ohio, a coalition of organizations is in the process of collecting the 305,591 valid signatures they need to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

And in Colorado, another coalition plans two ballot initiatives-- one that would reform congressional redistricting, and another to reform legislative redistricting.

Efforts to get initiatives or constitutional amendments on the ballot are underway in Missouri, South Dakota and Utah.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R) has created a task force to study a nonpartisan redistricting plan, which could turn into a ballot drive as well. Bipartisan study groups of legislators in Maryland, Indiana and Louisiana are all taking initial steps toward formulating a proposal.

Each initiative is unique to its own state-- Utah’s and Ohio’s would each create a seven-member commission, South Dakota’s a nine-member commission, and Missouri’s plan would use statistical modeling for new district lines.

But all would strip the power to draw favorable district lines, the practice known as gerrymandering, from partisan legislatures who zealously guard their ability to craft preferred terrain.

“The thinking has been-- it’s easier to get this done through initiatives than through legislatures,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. “Lawmakers are loathe to give up the power to draw boundaries, particularly their own boundaries.”

The good-government groups that back reform hope to increase competition in legislative and congressional elections. Democrats who support reforms believe a less partisan process would bolster their hopes of reclaiming control of the House of Representatives in the next decade.

...[That imbecile loser I mentioned above] Ward said her group is evaluating the ballot measures, which are by necessity different in each state.

“Not all reforms are created equal, and what works in one state might not work in another state,” Ward said. “We look at it from a customized, state-by-state approach.”

Many of the initiatives are using California as a model given passage in 2010 of Proposition 20. That initiative, funded by conservative billionaire Charles Munger, gave the power to redraw district lines to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a group of 14 members-- five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents.

The California measure required the commission to draw districts that united so-called communities of interest, whether those are cities or counties. Several of the proposed initiatives have similar requirements: The Ohio proposal would require a commission to limit the number of counties that are divided between districts, as does a legislative proposal that has earned bipartisan support in Pennsylvania’s legislature.

California was also the first state to give independents a voice in the process, a practice several of the new initiatives are emulating.

Other states are also considering giving each side the power to veto unfavorable maps, a tool to ensure compromise and competition.

Under that system, “you can’t approve a map wholly over the objections of the other party, and that in itself tends to produce fairer maps,” said Li, of the Brennan Center.

Others are looking to Arizona, where voters approved a redistricting commission in 2000. The Supreme Court upheld that commission, which values competitiveness as a desirable quality when drawing new maps, in 2015.

Li said many states are now considering symmetry, or ensuring that a party wins a share of seats proportionate to their statewide vote total, in drawing new districts. That would target states like Virginia, where Republicans hold seven of 11 congressional districts even though Democrats have won most recent statewide elections.
Tom Guild, the progressive Democrat running for Congress in the Oklahoma City district, is a long-time member of the Brennan Society and very serious about finding a way to put a stop to gerrymandering. "We need to end gerrymandering so that voters pick their congresspersons and state legislators, instead of politicians picking the voters who can vote for or against them when they stand for election or re-election. I support efforts at the state level in Oklahoma and other states to legally create nonpartisan redistricting commissions and efforts to do the same at the national level, which is admittedly more difficult and unwieldy. Until we take the power to essentially rig elections in advance by virtually guaranteeing the election of candidates from one party or the other in congressional and state legislative races our representative democracy will remain screamingly unrepresentative."

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At 6:12 PM, Blogger Gadfly said...

The hell with that. Anybody who supports real democracy will support proportional representation, THE way to not only get rid of gerrymandering, but end the duopoly's headlock on races.

At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

In school I learned that gerrymandering was illegal. Big laugh. For so many years, the Republicans have been running roughshod over the law. Now they are running roughshod over our Constitution and our democracy. The people are the losers.

I hope this ballot initiative works out.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First... you were "heartened" when obamanation and the bank lobbyist/lawyer holder said they'd do something about gerrymandering? What are you, stupid?
Let's ignore their collective history of promising and then betraying and lying. WTF could they do about it out of office that they could not have done while FUCKING IN OFFICE, which, of course, they did not a thing.

Ballot initiative? Maine just expanded Medicaid through one. Yet it isn't going to happen. Direct democracy via ballot initiative depends on two very iffy things:
1) voters not having their collective heads up their sphincters
2) admins enforcing passed initiatives

If trump drags the R "brand" down enough, some of those 36 R controlled states might flip. And if they flip to Democrats instead of democraps (there's a huge diff) in 2020, then there is a chance those might become un-gerrymandered.
You see, the census of 2020 gives their leges an opportunity to redraw districts.

So we'll see. But obamanation and holder won't have done shit, guaranteed. But I wouldn't be getting "heartened" about any of it. The fascists have layered their firewalls very nicely. And at least one of those is the democrap party which is corrupt and inept and has already, when able, refused to act on this.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Aren't gerrymandered districts created based on the number of voters registered to the dominant party doing the gerrymandering? If so, wouldn't a solid effort by the other party to register voters for their side go a long way toward counteracting the gerrymander?

Asking for a friend.

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not quite, EB. Districts are drawn so that proportional numbers of citizens, not just registered voters, are in each district. That's pretty much it.

Gerrymandering is the practice, illustrated by the tetrus thing herein, where the ruling party draws districts so that their party wins more seats than the other party.

Over time, the demographics change (nola just rejoined the 40 most populous cities after dropping out because of Katrina) and the event that IDs those changes is the census every 10 years. Short of a Katrina-like devastating event, the census is the only justification for redrawing districts.


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