I am happy to accept Noah Kennedy’s invitation to contribute to his blog in spite of the fact that I have no credentials in math, cartography, or computer software. What I can offer readers is a passionate interest in seeing reform of gerrymandering across the US before the next census. Before I tell you who I am and how you might help tip our country to meaningful reform, I will try to quickly answer a few FAQ’s that may come to mind.
- I do not think reform will be easy or simple.
- No plan will please everyone who lives on the edges of wherever new district lines appear.
- Maps CAN be redrawn without partisan input.
- Compact geographical districts are in the best interest of candidates as well as residents.
My interest in gerrymandering emerged a few years ago when I began to see letters to newspapers decrying the gerrymandering that was sure to occur after the 2010 census. The more I learned, the more appalled I became. (Who knew that newly-elected legislators go to map-drawing school before Congress convenes? Here they learn how to crack and pack districts for partisan advantage however they please as long as the population is essentially equal in all districts.)
A happier surprise was learning that some states are seriously involved in efforts to take partisanship out of the map-drawing process. What spoke to me personally was a conclusion in studies by both the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. A common factor in failure of their efforts to advance reform was the failure of the public to be involved in the process. It all makes sense. For over 200 years, whatever party was in power got to redraw congressional districts to favor its own interests. Voters might object, but the deed was done and the issue would not resurface for another decade. There was virtually no opportunity for significant public input.
Best of all, after reading endless articles, editorials, op eds, posts, tweets, and comments (and submitting three letters on the subject which were published in The Washington Post,) I stumbled onto Noah’s “Hands Off Redistricting—first version” on Youtube. Someone had actually dealt with the devilish details. His plan was sensible, open to public scrutiny and input, census-based, fair, and understandable (with some tweaking of language) to the average citizen. He agreed I might promote his plan however I wished. Having signed onto Facebook, Twitter and Word Press, I am far from comfortable with the social media, but I appreciate the opportunities it offers to reach like-minded individuals and groups.
We are living at a time when the citizenry is fed up with blatant gerrymandering. We need to move discussion of a sensible process for redistricting from cyberspace to the public domain. Our job is to reach out to journalists, politicians, ex-politicians, academics, TV figures, etc. with a reasonable plan for discussion that will engage the public. The US may not tip to reform before the next census, but we can have a proposal in place on which candidates must take a stand in 2016. The sooner we can vote for a representative of our choice rather than for a legislator who has chosen us long before we go to the polls, the better our government will function.
Here’s a suggestion: Anyone interested in starting a movement to boost citizen engagement to reform gerrymandering should “like” my Facebook page, “Gerrymandering – Let’s Get Serious” in order to have an online headquarters for this new national advocacy campaign. There we can develop strategy, share contacts, divide responsibilities, and mobilize to bring about a fair redistricting process in every state of our union.