The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the 2003 redistricting in Texas, which moved the Texas Congressional delegation from a 17-15 Democratic majority to a 21-11 Republican majority.
The arguments will be about legality and minority voting rights, but the underlying case is a more basic one: what are the limits of gerrymandering political districts?
The basic facts are straightforward. The districts are supposed to be redrawn after each Census. They were, but the Texas legislators couldn’t agree, so the issue got bounced to the courts, where a panel of judges simply reaffirmed the existing boundaries. Three years later, Delay and Texas Republicans reopened the issue and redrew the boundaries to suit themselves.[ADBLOCKHERE]
Politically, you’ll be outraged if you’re a Democrat and you think the 2003 redrawing violated the tradition of only redrawing districts after each census. Or you’ll feel justice was served if you’re a Republican who thinks that legislatures, not courts, are supposed to draw the districts, and so the court-drawn districts were illegitimate.
Me, I hope (probably forlornly) that the case will lead to some reasonable rules about drawing political districts. Gerrymandering is wrong, period. Districts should be drawn in ways that make sense, not solely to favor one political party or the other.
Those charged with drawing districts should be required to follow one or more basic rules for the boundaries, such as major geographical or political boundaries (mountains, rivers, city limits) or geometrical guidelines such as average distance from a central point. The boundaries should be susceptible to mathematical or logical analysis using those criteria; districts that fail the analysis are thrown out.
Here’s one idea for how a fair redistricting plan would work.
6. Each district shall be as contiguous as compact as practicable. With respect to compactness, to the extent practicable a contiguous area of population shall not be bypassed to incorporate an area of population more distant.
a. Respect for contiguous and compact districts shall be secondary to the goals of representativness and competitiveness.
7. District boundaries shall conform to the existing geographic boundaries of a county, city, or city and county, and shall preserve identifiable communities of interest to the greatest extent possible. A redistricting plan shall provide for the most whole counties and the fewest county fragments possible, and the most whole cities and fewest city fragments possible. For the purposes of this section, communities of interest are defined by similarities in social, cultural, ethnic, and economic interest, school districts, and other formal relationships between municipalities.
They also suggest forming large, multirepresentative districts and then electing any candidates that get more than 1/3 of the vote. That way you get minority representation without having to gerrymander individual districts.
Couple this with instant-runoff voting and you’d go a long way toward making elections fair, competitive and representative.
Hey, a guy can dream, right?