House Republicans to oppose nonpartisan redistricting?

From the latest RPV newsletter:

We are well positioned to have a sweep of statewide offices and expand our majority in the House of Delegates. And, make no mistake, redistricting is on the ballot. Our ability to protect and expand our numbers for the next decade hangs in the balance.

If House Republicans had a lick of sense, they’d push hard for nonpartisan redistricting during the upcoming session. To the extent that this note from the RPV newsletter indicates the House Republicans’ plans, it looks like they still just don’t get it.

House minority leader Del. Ward Armstrong told me last year that he supports nonpartisan redistricting, but only so long as Democrats are in the minority. Republicans have six weeks—this coming session—in which they can prevent Democrats from redistricting them into oblivion. Let’s watch them squander it.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “House Republicans to oppose nonpartisan redistricting?”

  1. Even if we claimed to have “non-partisan” redistricting, it would still be partisan below the surface. This is not cynical, just realistic. Look at every “non-partisan” job and committee in the Commonwealth; they all wreak of partisan agendas.

    As a soon to be former Republican, I support the current system where the majority draws the district lines. Sooner than most of the Country Club Republicans and their Religious Reich pals realize, the working class will, through their active support of the Democrats, have re-gained a Democratic majority here in Virginia.

    Anyone who has read the Republican blogs during the last election cycle can discern that our formerly great, “Big Tent” Republican Party has been taken over by a fascist-like element that is bigoted, intolerant and incapable of developing any positive ideas to actually address the problems that we face. The McCain-Pain ticket did nothing but try to slime Obama and attempt to generate fear among the citizens.

    Those who had hoped to reform the Republican Party and build a platform on a modern, visionary and solutions based set of ideas, were ostracized by the Religious Reich and their inbred xenophobic cousins. Anyone who opposed this cabal-of-the-absurd, was quickly labeled as a “RINO” and banished. The chief flaw in the RINO banning strategy was that the Neo-Fascists managed to drive away our GOP’s top level donors and many of our candidates and potential candidates who commanded broad-based appeal.

    So let the inevitable changing of the guard occur, and when the Democrats regain control here in Virginia, go ahead and gerrymander as much as you want; you’ll have earned the right.

  2. Even if we claimed to have “non-partisan” redistricting, it would still be partisan below the surface. This is not cynical, just realistic.

    Tyler, what you’re saying is that if we didn’t have a non-partisan redistricting process, it would be partisan. Nobody will argue with that. But there’s simply no reason why a substantially non-partisan redistrict process can’t be put into place. Iowa has had just such a system since 1980, and Arizona’s system is by all accounts a success. Extensive, rigorous academic analysis has gone into examining Iowa and Arizona’s systems, and everybody agrees that they have more competitive elections than other states.

    None of this is to say that they’re perfect, or that they don’t end up giving an advantage to one party or another, sneakily-intentionally or accidentally. But that is a substantially better approach than our current one, in which the dominant party can draw lines in order to punish specific members of the opposition. Caliper even makes a program called Mapitude for Redistricting—you can tell it the location of the homes of the legislators from the opposing party and it’ll draw crazy boundaries that force them to run against each other, or leave them with a demographic group that’s totally different than their existing base. This is really punitive stuff, the sort of thing that a nonpartisan group could never do.

    And I’ve got to disagree with your support of this spoils system, as bizarre as it might sound. (I, a Democrat, telling you, a Republican, that Democrats should not be able to district Republicans out of existence in two years’ time.) I appreciate that it’s a valid viewpoint as to how government should work, but I think that it’s inefficient, unfair to voters, and results in inconsistent governing. That’s the political equivalent of dumping corpses in the wells and sowing the fields with salt. We owe more to our political opposition—and to Virginians—than that.

  3. Here’s the problem with allowing either party to gerrymander: partisan redistricting leads to entrenched incumbents; reducing the threat of political loss reduces the sense of being answerable to the electorate, which leads to bad decisions. This is not just a Republican problem. This is a human problem.

    I certainly hope Democrats avoid it this time around, but I’m not an idiot. I honestly think the best thing they can do for the long-term health of the party is to keep things competitive and attempt to keep their policy ideas pragmatic.

  4. This won’t happen, no matter how much you say what the GOP “should” do.


    Saslaw in the Seante has already come out against it, and I have to wonder if Kaine, who has proven himself far more focused on politics than at governing, would sign off on such a bill.

  5. bwana – despite Saslaw’s opposition, the Senate didi pass bi-partisan redistricting last year. It’s the Republicans in the House that killed it.

    Redistricting reform is something that is high on my list. Study after study shows that competitive elections is the result. More than that, it allows the voters to choose their representatives, rather than the other way around. And that is as it should be.

    I believe both Creigh and Brian have come out in favor of redistricting reform. (I won’t call it non-partisan any more because that part just isn’t going to happen.) Where is Bob McDonnell on this?

  6. Having attended one of Iowa’s Universities as an undergrad, Iowa was what came to mind when you mentioned “non-partisan” redistricting. On the surface, it is non-partisan, but it is controlled by the Iowa Democrats and everyone knows it.

    Not to put too fine a point on my earlier post, but the current bunch that controls the Republican side, DESERVES to be gerrymandered into a political abyss.

    So, when the Democrats take control of the General Assembly, go right ahead and gerrymander. You’ve earned the People’s trust to lead, so by all means, lead.

  7. What deserves to happen is that the people have representatives who have every incentive to take positions that the majority of their constituents support. When you have such gerrymandered districts that the only serious decision happens at the primary level, you no longer have such incentives. Instead, you need to win the support of the majority of your primary-goers, who tend to be the most extreme members of both parties.

    This whole cycle of redistricting either party into oblivion is petty and foolish. It assumes that the voters are unable vote out those members who don’t deserve to stay.

    Furthermore, there is empirical evidence that any form of redistricting other than the partisan model reduces political bias. Nobody is saying that the nonpartisan model is innately perfect; rather, we are saying it is the best model we have found as of yet.

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