At the end is this pithy little paragraph:
When I visited Berkeley, Karin Mac Donald had just returned from giving a talk on redistricting, this one to the League of Women Voters, which considers [California] Proposition 77 flawed because the panel of retired judges would be too small to reflect the state's diversity. One lesson that she has taken from the lecture circuit is that many Americans, no matter how much they complain about the poison of partisanship, are comfortable with their like-minded communities. "People always say it would be great to have competitive districts," Mac Donald explained. "But you talk to them for two minutes about what that would mean, and in the end they say, 'I don't want to live in a competitive district, but everyone else should."' Why, I asked? "Because in a competitive district they might not get what they want." (emphasis added)
Earlier in the article, the author poses the key question:
Which is more important to democracy? Compactness or competitiveness? Or something entirely different?
I believe competitiveness is more important as a criteria than is normall given. As the article reads:
Gerrymandered districts ... have been blamed for a host of ills: complacent incumbents, polarized politics, cynical voters, dull elections.
I think all of these ills are better addressed by instilling a criteria in elections that favor competitive districts when possible. To be sure, not every district is going to be competitive, after all, some districts, when drawn in a compact fashion will always end up favoring one party or another. Yet, not all districts are like that. The electoral battleground of suburban and exurban areas are often segmented in such a way as to segregate out voters of each party to bolster the electoral prospects of one party or another. But if these areas are drawn into a particular district, the legislative districts will begin to mirror electoral politics, we will in essence have more swing districts.
In swing districts, the victor will be the person who best addresses the issues of concern to the voters. These districts will likely swing control between one party or another, just as they should. The representatives will be more moderate by nature, more issue driven and certainly more responsive to their constituents than is the current norm.
To answer the big question posed, sometimes the most important realization is not positive, i.e. who should be doing someting, but a negative realization, that someone or some people should not be doing something. Thus, the people responsible for redistrciting should not be a self-interested legislature. Beyond that, I am willing to look at various experiments and see what happens over time.
Snacking at Jo's Cafe.
Appearing at The Political Teen