(Editor Note: This is the third post in a series on renewing the institutions of our federal government and democracy to ensure that it will endure. Looking at trends today with data, analysis of the present situation and recommendations for changes. Todays post focuses congressional districts being set by an independent commission not legislators. )
The next census count of the population of 50 states is to be completed in 2020, with states losing population or gaining population being forced to redistrict their Congressional Representative districts. Southern and Western states like North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Virginia, California, Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado are likely to gain seats. Northeastern and Midwestern states like Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota plus Alabama and West Virginia are likely to lose seats.
The redistricting process must be completed by the time ballots are printed for the 2022 election. Only 6 states use independent commissions of equal representation of each party and varying numbers of independent non-partisan members. The other 44 states use some form of state legislature approved redistricting. The legislatures are given the power to establish congressional districts by the Constitution.
Does it really make sense to have the foxes running the hen house? All states have partisan legislative bodies (except Nebraska), the majority party ensures that they can dominate the next congressional election by gerrymandering the state district map. Legislators should not be deciding who voters vote for, voters should be making that decision. In North Carolina, General Assembly Republican, Rep. David Lewis said, “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” of a map plan passed by the legislature in 2016. When voters went to the polls that fall, 10 GOP representatives won seats, while only 3 Democrats were elected yet the GOP only won 53 % of the popular vote Now this redistricting issue is before the Supreme Court to be decided later this year. Other states have been in and out of federal courts including Maryland and Wisconsin for redistricting violations based on party affiliation. State legislatures have a long undemocratic history of creating poll taxes for ethnic groups they didn’t like or discriminating against minorities by placing them in loaded districts away from their logical geographic location.
Let’s safeguard from partisanship the most important of democratic institutions – voting, by ensuring that voters will be located in diverse districts from all political points of view. Congress needs to pass a law requiring all states to institute Independent Commissions to draw congressional district maps. Maybe if we had more representative districts candidates would offer more compromising positions, so when they go to Congress they might just learn to work together and do what’s best for the people not corporations or the Elite.