Congressional Redistricting: Little Impact But Still a Big Deal

Michael Barone writes that redistricting is not a big deal this cycle, identifying a net increase of one seat slanted toward the GOP. Barone cites the GOP focus on maintaining incumbency, Democratic successes in states like Illinois and in “gaming” non-partisan panels, and, amazingly, the Voting Rights Act itself.

Even though the net result of this process is relatively flat, it remains a big deal to citizens in states having their voting right diluted through gerrymandering. If Democrats succeeded in “aggressive” gerrymandering in Illinois, the GOP had to act with equal or greater aggression in a number of other states in order to hold the results flat. But moreover the lack of radical changes this cycle reflects upon the highly aggressive moves made by Republicans in the previous cycle. There is very little more that Republicans could do in many states, where their 2000 moves gutted battleground districts to the benefit of Republicans. That said, there were a number of states where the GOP actively built minority populated districts to consolidate Democratic constituencies.

As for the aggressiveness of Democrats, this too requires an understanding of the baseline. For example, in 2000, Illinois had a Republican governor and Republican State Senate, and the lines were accordingly slanted. As this article notes, the bulk of the Democratic gains involve expanding Congressional districts that were previously majority black in order to force a huge Democratic majority into the one district.¬†Democrats have, on other occasions, drawn some unnecessary gerrymandered districts of their own, but this reinforces the point — gerrymandering needs to be removed from the hands of politicians increasingly encouraged to win through gamesmanship.

Non-partisan commissions invited community testimony and Republicans cried foul that more traditionally Democratic constituencies showed up to testify. This isn’t really “gaming the system” as much as “properly availing themselves of the system.”

But again, this is a serious problem in this country and one of the easiest ways to silence the voice of Americans in the voting process. Focusing on the numbers, and making this silencing into a “game” normalizes the issue and reduces voting rights to “business as usual.”

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