Texas Un-re-redistricting at the Supreme Court
Supreme Court justices appeared unimpressed on Wednesday with arguments that politics was behind a plan engineered by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's plan to redraw Texas congressional boundaries.
"Wow. That's a surprise," Justice Antonin Scalia said sarcastically as the courtroom erupted in laughter. "Legislatures redraw maps all the time for political purposes."
A high court ruling against the Texas plan could make it harder for the Republican Party led by U.S. President George W.Bush to maintain control of the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives in November's elections.
I don't know, maybe they'll surprise me. It strikes me as one of the flaws of our system that elected representatives draw district lines. In most democratic nations, that is not the case. Some states have independent commissions draw up the district lines, too. Those commissions are usually made up of or appointed by state majority and minority party leaders in equal numbers, and those leaders agree on a neutral tiebreaker. I think this is a much fairer system than letting elected representatives or their partisan allies choose which voters will elect them to office.
If the 2001 map is restored, Democrats are likely to reclaim 2-4 additional seats in the U. S. House of Representatives, depending on the decisions of certain former representatives (Jim Turner and Max Sandlin) to run again. But Democrats should prepare for the possibility that the Supreme Court will keep the 2003 map.
How should they prepare? Well, I'm sad to say there's probably very little to do in Texas. We'll have to concentrate hard on beating Tom DeLay in TX-22 and defending Chet Edwards in TX-17. And try and get back the Texas House and some statewide races so we can have some representation in the Texas government in 2010 for the next required round of redistricting.
Democrats elsewhere, however, will be presented with an interesting opportunity. 2006 looks likely to be anywhere from mildly good to wildly good for Democrats. The structural difficulties counterbalancing any wave exist primarily at the national level. At the state level, Democratic opportunities abound. If partisan mid-decade redistricting is acceptable, Democrats should strongly consider some partisan redistricting of their own after the 2006 election.
New York already has a 20-9 Democratic tilt to their congressional delegation, but they might be able to squeeze a seat or two if they reclaim the state senate and governorship, as seems likely. Pennsylvania, should Democrats capture a trifecta (governorship and both state houses), would be a perfect opportunity since Republicans now control the congressional delegation 12-17 even though the state is slightly blue. Michigan may be more likely for Democrats to gain a trifecta, and the delegation there is 9-6 Republican. Democrats already have a trifecta in Illinois, where the delegation is 10-9 Democratic. And of course there's California, where the congressional delegation is 33-20 Democratic. If the Democrats can oust Gov. Schwarzenegger, they'll have a trifecta there too.
There are a handful of smaller states where Democrats might pick up a seat or two with some hardball redistricting, too. In Minnesota, Democrats need a single seat to capture the state house and Gov. Pawlenty (R) is trailing his likely Democratic challenger. The congressional delegation there is split 4-4. Democrats may pick up the governorship in Colorado as well, where the delegation is 4-3 Republican. Iowa has a 4-1 Republican delegation, both state houses at near partisan parity, and an open seat governor contest. Democrats might also look at Connecticut (3-2 R) if they haven't already taken every district there by November.
After a generous bout of machiavelling, then Democrats might consider setting up nationwide redistricting standards. One suggestion I would have would be to make independent redistricting commissions mandatory. Another would be to make proportionality an important goal of redistricting. In other words, the number of Democrats and Republicans in a state's delegation should track as closely as possible to the proportion of voters who chose a Democrat to those who chose a Republican. And a third suggestion would be to require that a state pay for and conduct a census before any mid-decade redistricting.
While I'm prattling on about things like this, here are another couple more actions Democrats might consider doing both because they are the right thing to do and because they would help Democrats increase their representation.
Voting representation for Washington D.C. in the House and Senate. (not necessarily statehood.)
End felony disenfranchisement laws for felons who have served their time.
Statehood for U. S. Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, U. S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands)
Expand the U. S. House to 150%-200% of its current size. This would have the added benefit of reconfiguring the electoral college in Democrats favor. And it would decrease the cost of a seat in the House (and the value of it), which would decrease the influence of money.
Consider implementing the National Popular Vote plan, which would have states collude to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the popular vote in their state, thereby effectively abolishing the inequities of the electoral college without a constitutional amendment.
And while we're here, I also want one billion dollars. And a pony.
For more on the redistricting case, check out Capitol Annex's roundup of the day's events, and Burnt Orange Report's Phillip Martin's roundup of the editorials. BOR's Damon McCullar also has this about the case's effect on the TX-28 Democratic primary:
There's also the SCOTUS factor. CD 28 was created in the 2003 redistricting. If the SCOTUS throws out the current district map, then I would imagine that it would be in the bag for Ciro. And hey, we might get lucky and have Cuellar run against Bonilla. Two Dems for the price of one? I know most of you guys don't care for Cuellar, but if he can unseat a Republican then that's one step closer to having a Democratic majority in The People's House.
I think if Cuellar is ousted in the primary, he'll get enough bad press that he won't be able to beat Bonilla in the old TX-23 any longer. Another Laredo Democrat perhaps though...
P. S. Can we please call it "un-re-redistricting"? I really like that.