election reform: MPR covers redistricting inititiaves in Ohio, Calif.

Talk of the Nation had a bit yesterday about the two redistricting ballot initiaves in California and Ohio.

Redistricting is a big deal, and is one of the main reasons why there’s so little turnover (and thus accountability) in federal and state governments. Ohio and California currently have ballot intitiaves up for a vote that would put district boundaries in the hands of non-partisan (or bi-partisan) groups.

It would do much to end gerrymandered districts in both of these states. Ohio is one of the top three gerrymandered states (along with Pennsylvania and Michigan), and passing a ballot measure like the one up for a vote would do a lot to increase democratic (and Democratic) representation in the House.

Unfortunately, neither measure is polling well. According to the MPR guy (Rob Richie, who runs the Center for Voting and Democracy), the plan is falling victim to its own complexity. Apparently the Ohio measure places “competitive districts” as the #1 priority, rather than things like “compactness” or “simplicity.” This emphasis makes proposed districts very complex.

The discussion seemed to suggest that there was no good way to deal with redistricting, though apparently Iowa has the best system. They have a non-partisan committee that draws relatively competitive districts.

Minnesota, for its part, also has a relatively good system: they rely on legislative gridlock, which prevents any one party from drawing over-favorable lines. After a new redistricting bill fails to pass, it gets sent to a (relatively non-partisan) group of judges who decide the new districts. Still, they get drawn up in a way that protects incumbents and helps certain candiadtes, but Minnesota is sill better than most states.

Everyone who knows anything about the issue knows that the real answer is proportional representation. The MPR guy even mentioned that Illinois used to have 3-member districts, which would usually get split 2-1 between majority & minority parties.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: proportional representation will save our democracy.


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DLW said...

At my blog, "A New Kind of Third Party", I describe how PR can save our democracy.