Cross-posted from Good Will Hinton:
In yesterday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, columnist Jim Wooten makes the claim that redistricting will never be politics-free and should never be. Fortunately, Wooten shows his hand as the ultimate partisan himself:
“Had they been a bit less clever, Democrats might still rule Georgia. But cleverness and greed caused them to overreach in drawing legislative districts, provoking a fair-minded electorate and an equal-protection court to collapse the empire.
Prior to 2002, Democrats had it all. Within two years, they’d lost it all. The system works.”
Memo to Jim: there are plenty of reasons why Democrats lost the legislature in Georgia. One of those reasons was NOT gerrymandering.
So what has political gerrymandering given us? A state full of districts that are safe for incumbents, thus cementing in place the power of Republicans. This was readily apparent in this past election cycle when many Republicans around the state weren’t even challenged by a Democrat. I’ve heard many Democrats suggest that this was a result of a poorly run state Democratic organization but I beg to differ. This was the result of a deck stacked against Democrats in too many districts that had been gerrymandered to maintain a Republican majority forever.
And this goes both ways. Many “Democratic” districts in Georgia became more Democratic after Republicans finished their redistricting. Case in point is the 4th Congressional District. There is not any chance that a Republican will ever win this Democratic district in its current state.
This situation is bad bad bad for a democratic form of government.
Now what about when non-partisan districting has been done in Georgia? It has been done and recently with fantastic results. In DeKalb County, a judge ruled that the 80th and 81st state house districts would be redrawn by a non-partisan group. Both of these districts are now very well balanced between Republicans and Democrats and have the ability to go either way depending upon the strength of the candidates, not the letter next to their name.
The representatives of these districts, Mike Jacobs (D) in the 80th and Jill Chambers (R) in the 81st are two of the best legislators that Georgia has had in a long time. Because of the competitive nature of their districts, they are forced to be responsive to their constituents and are discouraged from being demogogic partisan hacks like many state representatives tend to be.
So back to you Jim: are you saying that you prefer a system that produces representatives along the lines of Mabel Thomas and Clay Cox who seem to only want to score rhetorical points rather than responsive public servants like Mike Jacobs and Jill Chambers?