Reapportionment also known as redistricting has become a rallying cry by some voters as they head to the polls now and over the coming days to cast their vote for Governor.
In many ways, I think that some are misinformed about how redistricting is currently done in Georgia. The Legislature currently draws the lines and the Governor signs or vetoes the bill. If you trust your member of the Legislature to draw fair and balanced district lines, then fear of redistricting is just another pointless scare tactic being used to mislead voters from the truly important issues facing our state like creating a climate for robust job growth, education, and addressing our long overdue transportation problems.
The model of proper legal and ethical redistricting in our country is conducted by the State of Iowa. In Iowa, “The legislature has the final responsibility for enacting both congressional and state legislative district plans, but the nonpartisan Legislative Services Bureau has initial responsibility. It must develop up to three plans that can be accepted or rejected by the legislature. The plans are criteria-driven, meaning that the bureau draws districts based on clear, measurable criteria.”
The four criteria, in descending order of importance are: 1) population equality; 2) contiguity; 3) unity of counties and cities (maintaining county lines and inserting house districts within senate districts and senate districts within congressional districts); and 4) compactness. A five-member commission consisting of four civilian members chosen by each caucus in the legislature, and a fifth chairperson chosen by the commission, is responsible for advising the bureau, but only upon their request. If the legislature does not approve the first three plans by the bureau, it must itself approve a plan by September 1st, or the state supreme court will take responsibility for the state districts. The Governor has veto power over both plans.
You can read more about Iowa’s redistricting process here.
As proposed by Roy Barnes, and supported by Governor Sonny Perdue, Georgia needs an Independent non-partisan commission, very similar to Iowa’s plan, to draw district lines. It will be more transparent, ensure that back room deals do not trump local community integrity, and actually give us fair districts. The current system allows personally drawn districts that benefits incumbents first, personal ambition second, and party dominance third.