Friday, January 9, 2009
My goal with this blog is to raise awareness about redistricting, particularly at the congressional level. I am a Democrat (“big D”), so I have my bias (as do we all whether we admit it or not). But I also believe in improving our democracy (and yes, I know, we’re technically a republic). To improve our democracy I think we must limit or better yet eliminate egregious gerrymandering. If you look at the congressional district maps of most states, but especially the big states, you will find many indescribably contorted districts. From a gut common sense level, this does not make sense. But from a partisan perspective or from an incumbent-preservation perspective it does. And with fine-grain data and computing power, it is easy to fine-tune districts to meet specific goals. So from a common sense point of view I would like to see that changed. But I will not advocate for unilateral disarmament in this. Any significant change needs to be national. But that’s most likely a long term project, beyond the next mandated congressional redistricting. In the short term we have a national census in 2010 that will reallocate congressional seats among the states and require in almost all states with more than 1 congressional seat, even in those whose allocation does not change because of the 2010 census, redistricting before the 2012 election. So issues for the short term include who will lose and who will gain seats, who controls the redistricting process in the various states, and what can be done to prevent Republican gains thru redistricting (such as Texas a few years ago) and maintain and enhance Democratic gains. In this area I will attempt to point out significant or interesting developments that I find in the news, as well as other bloggers’ posts on the subject. Recently DavidNYC posted on the projected congressional reapportionment among the states. The projection points to Texas as the biggest gainer with 4 new seats and Arizona with 2. Ohio looks to lose 2 and a number of others will likely gain 1 or lose 1. Also, the National Conference of State Legislatures has a recent draft document on the upcoming 2010 redistricting. For the longer term perspective, I’ll point out organizations and individuals who are thinking about and working on redistricting issues. These include FairVote, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Annenberg Center at USC. And to top it off, I’m working on a software application for you to play with redistricting. I plan to make it available for free, hopefully in a couple of months. It won’t be as good as the commercial mapping package you could buy for $10K, but it will allow you to fairly simply create your own districts for a state and to get some “automatic” assistance in creating “fair” districts. A few others have been doing some work in this area. They include Brian Olson and Professors Michael McDonald and Micah Altman. So, I plan to post about once a week, generally on Fridays, but may post more when significant developments occur. I will also cross post diaries on Daily Kos. In upcoming posts I’ll dig deeper into what the National Conference of Legislatures is doing; I’ll look at the range of state and national proposals as discussed by Fair Vote; I’ll discuss some of the issues with having software that “automatically” creates districts. I hope you enjoy this blog. I'm interested in your comments and ideas and moreover hope that together we can change how we do redistricting in the U.S. Thanks.