Gerrymander Gazette: Social Media Isn’t All Bad Edition
Facebook Strikes Again: Legislators’ Attempt to Gut 2018 Clean Missouri Reform Stalled by Procedural Missteps
Last year Missourians passed the Clean Missouri ballot initiative, a package of good government reforms that included empowering a nonpartisan state demographer to draw districts and prohibiting the drawing of maps that unfairly benefit one party over another. An attempt by legislators to significantly weaken this reform appears to be dead (for the moment) after two likely supporters of a bill to turn back the clock on fair maps failed to show up to a key committee hearing. One missing state senator was absent because he was recording a Facebook Live, which proves that addiction to social media isn’t all that bad if it’s distracting the right people.
A new analysis of redistricting around the country provided an unsurprising quantitative conclusion: legislators stink at drawing districts. Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center found that judicial intervention in the process is more than three times more likely when legislators are in charge of redistricting than when independent citizen commissions designed for partisan balance are in charge. Court intervention includes either striking down maps as illegal or taking over the process when the entity responsible for drawing districts failed to do so. Only 11% of maps drawn by balanced independent commissions resulted in court intervention compared to 38% for maps approved by legislatures or by commissions consisting of legislators. If you’re a taxpayer who likes to spend money on expensive partisan consultants and losing lawsuits, letting politicians draw districts is the way to go.
Speaking of busy judges…
Two More Partisan Gerrymanders Struck Down in Michigan and Ohio
As reform advocates wait for word from the U.S. Supreme Court about whether a judicially manageable standard exists to overturn partisan gerrymanders, two more trial courts found one. Separate three-judge federal district court panels struck down Ohio congressional districts in Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute v. Householder and Michigan congressional districts and state legislative districts in League of Women Voters of Michigan v. Benson.
The courts in both cases found violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments based on a burden on associational rights and the packing and cracking of Democratic voters. The trial court in Ohio also found that the state’s congressional map offended a separate provision when it determined that “the State exceeded its powers under Article I of the Constitution.”
Although the courts ordered a redraw of unconstitutional districts in both states, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to hit the pause button on both cases by issuing a stay until it decides Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek.
The End of Prison Gerrymandering in Washington
Today Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill ending prison gerrymandering in the state. In most states, districts at all levels of government are drawn after counting incarcerated individuals as residents of the community in which the prison is located and not where they previously lived. This unfairly distorts representation by inflating the population of the communities in which prisons are located. In a national survey of state legislative districts, the Prison Gerrymandering Project found districts with a prison population as high as 12-15 percent. Washington will become the fifth state to count prisoners at their home address instead of the location of the prison.