Monday, May 30, 2005

Representative Tanner (D-Tenn.) has introduced a bill to "take politics and partisanship out of the Congressional redistricting process." People have been complaining about redistricting for years, but Tanner has an argument which seems particularly compelling in the current political environment:

"The political center has been disappearing in Washington," said Tanner, a founding member of the Blue Dog Coalition, comprised of 35 moderate to conservative House Democrats. "Part of the reason is that so many Congressional districts have been designed to guarantee victory for one political party or another, paving the way for partisan extremists unwilling to work cooperatively with others toward the best interest of the country."

A New York Times editorial agrees:

Drawing less partisan lines would reinvigorate the center in American politics, and make House members pay more attention to their constituents and less to their party leaders. That is why Mr. Tanner's bill is likely to have a hard time in today's Congress. It is also why it is important for everyone who wants to improve American politics to support it.

How does the bill, H.R.2642, work? Tanner's press release explains:

States already have the Constitutional duty to develop Congressional maps. Under Tanner's legislation, each state would establish an independent redistricting commission of at least five members to draw that state's Congressional district map exactly once every 10 years. Majority and minority party leaders in the state legislature would appoint an even number of commissioners, who would then elect an additional commissioner to serve as the panel's chair. Commissioners could not be recently active in politics and would be ineligible to run for a U.S. House seat in that state for 10 years.

The redistricting commission would be required to consider the rights established by the Constitution and Voting Rights Act, as well as population and geography of each district but would not be allowed to consider political issues such as voting history, party affiliation or the potential impact on a sitting incumbent. The commission's report must be approved or disapproved by the Governor and the state legislature without amendment. These provisions would serve as minimum standards, but states would have the option to adopt stricter guidelines.

I like it.


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