Calling for an end to the redistricting games

November 9, 2012 

There is an ugly, seedy side of politics that has brought us to this Red State/Blue State impasse. The divide in Washington, D.C. among Democrats and Republicans is a simple reflection of the damage wrought by redistricting when the process is controlled by politicians.

Here’s how it works now. Let’s use Georgia for an example. Our lawmakers in Atlanta have seen fit to stack the deck, not for the purposes of ensuring “one man, one vote,” but to guarantee continued political power. What they attempt to do, as best they can, is create Republican super majorities, districts where Democrats don’t have a prayer of being elected. This is a bipartisan tactic. While Republicans are to blame this go-round, Democrats did the same thing when they were in power. The party in power controls the district lines for local, state and federal offices.

For example, Rep. Austin Scott’s 8th Congressional District was strengthened by subtracting Democratic precincts. That’s why he didn’t draw Democratic opposition. The numbers just aren’t there. But they had to put Democrats somewhere. They ended up in the 2nd Congressional District where Sanford Bishop was just re-elected. Giving Bishop additional Democratic votes was akin to Republicans throwing in the towel. Two years ago, Bishop won in a Republican-heavy district. Though he drew Republican opposition in John House, he never stood a chance, particularly with President Obama heading up the ticket. Bishop’s margin of victory was almost 30 points.

Every now and then the best redistricting plans of mice and men sometimes go awry. Republicans redistricted U.S. Rep John Barrow’s from Savannah to Augusta, prodded Lee Anderson to run against him thinking they had finally set Barrow up for defeat. Didn’t work. Barrow took 53 percent of the vote.

Even in local races redistricting had an impact. An open seat on the Bibb County School Board that was traditionally Democratic was re-configured by switching some District 4 neighborhoods that voted for Democrats to District 6 where they are outnumbered by Republicans.

And the most blatant redistricting fiasco was to move certain Republican precincts from state Senate District 26 to Districts 25 and 18. This saved state Sen. Cecil Staton from defeat in a race he won by a mere 203 votes, but cost state Sen. Miriam Paris. Moving some precincts into District 25 was only desired to give the area three senators, two Republican one Democrat to thwart David Lucas’ power if he won the District 26 seat -- which he did.

How do we stop these shenanigans? Sunday, this space will explain what 12 states have done to remove redistricting powers from legislatures.

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