Monday, March 15, 2010

Redistricting and race

A citizens' initiative on the November ballot aimed at forcing the Legislature to draw political districts differently is drawing resistance from some African-American political leaders.

Fair Districts has a bipartisan team of honorary co-chairs and is backed by an array of labor unions, interest groups and individuals usually aligned with the Democratic Party. . . . "The whole point here is to draw districts that make sense geographically and that are not rigged to accomplish a particular political result" . . .

The new districts, which will be in use for the first time in the 2012 elections, must not "favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party," the ballot question says, and cannot deny equal political opportunity to racial or language minorities in electing legislators or members of Congress. . . .

Republican legislative leaders are already considering legal action against the initiatives, claiming the language would make it impossible for them to draw districts that would comply with federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

But in what could be just as important politically, the ballot proposal has divided members of the Democrat-dominated legislative black caucus, with some members saying standards are needed to restrain a partisan Republican Legislature and others openly disdainful of the idea.

The caucus has not taken a formal position in support of the Fair District initiative.

If you gerrymander districts to achieve racial or ethnic purity, you increase both minority and Republican representation in any legislative body (in large part because you consolidate Democratic leaning minority voters into fewer but more ethnically uniform districts).

On the other hand, if you redistrict into compact geographically logical districts, you will likely increase Democratic seats in any legislature but decrease "safe" minority seats.

How do you vote on this if you're a minority Democrat?

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