AJC’s Jim Wooten Says No To Non-Partisan Redistricting Commissions

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?

6 comments

  1. Loren says:

    And you don’t have to single out just the 4th District as an example. Other than the 8th and 12th, every Georgia Congressional race this year had the winner taking home upwards of 67% of the vote.

    Whether you want to attribute that to partisanship or incumbent favoritism, either way it doesn’t make for truly competitive races.

  2. Big Mack says:

    Will,

    Nothing to do with your topic; but I saw your brothers production on Sacred Harp Singing on GPTV one morning at 1:00 am and it is one of the best productions that I have ever seen.

  3. buzzbrockway says:

    Weren’t the State House and State Senate districts we currently have drawn by a Judge?

    I get your point Will, and in general I agree (although I think Clay Cox is a good guy and a good Rep.), but since Judges drew these particular districts, we have non-competitive races because of where people choose to live.

  4. GabrielSterling says:

    Will:

    You are simply incorrect in saying that the Dems didn’t lose because of over reach on redistricting.

    Outside of the Metro area people do truly identify with “place”. You go to a Dem or Republican convention in this state and you will see those from outside Metro Atlanta putting their County on the name badges prominently.

    When the Dems and Barnes started splitting counties randomly and cutting traditional counties from one another, people in most of the state got pissed.

    The areas that the GOP picked up were mainly outside the Metro area to give us our overwhelming margin. Redistricting as an issue in the Metro area had only marginal impact with highly partisan folks, but in the rest of the state it was a prominent driver for the GOP wresting control away from the Dems.

  5. DougieFresh says:

    I remember I was on a plane coming back from France (of all places) in 2002 when I found out that the Republicans were going to win big that year in GA.

    A woman sitting next to me on the plane was from rural Georgia (I lived in Gwinnett at the time) and we had a conversation about the coming election. She told me that she had always voted Democrat, but that she was voting against Barnes because of how the Democrats messed with her district.

    Living in Metro Atlanta, I had no idea about how much ire was raised by the apportionment issue. That conversation, as far from home as possible, is why I never believed the flaggots claim that it was they who handed the governors mansion to the Republicans.

  6. Will, all of Georgia’s current legislative districts (except for about 10 that Republicans modified slightly) were drawn by a federal court in 2004. Every single one, including all of the overwhelmingly safe Democratic and Republican seats.

    Furthermore, HD 81 is very similar to the old HD 53 that the Democrats drew to be a competitive toss up seat that leaned slightly Democratic (still does).

    Democrats lost in this state precisely because of redistricting. The map that they drew was thrown out for having too much deviation (official reason) which really meant it is too ugly.

    Now, why couldn’t we draw a good map? Simple. The rural Democratics who were in charge didn’t just want a Democratic map, they wanted a rural Democratic map. It’s pretty easy to draw a good Democratic map that gives you 53% of the seats in the House or the Senate…all you have to do is take advantage of the trending demographics in the suburbs.

    However, the Democratic leadership at the time wasn’t willing to do this, and they dug their own graves. Since most of theses guys are now Republicans due to party switching, I’m sure they are mostly OK with the end result.

    As for Jacobs and Chambers, along with Fran Millar they introduced a redistricting bill that would have tweaked districts 79, 80 and 81 to make 81 more Republican and 79 and 80 more Democratic. Thankfully it didn’t pass but the point is redistricting tomfoolery is hard to resist.

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