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Monday, December 1, 2003
Redistricting Decision

By Steven Taylor @ 1:00 pm

Interesting: Colorado Court Says Redistricting Is Unconstitutional

In a decision with national implications, the Colorado Supreme Court threw out the state’s new congressional districts Monday saying the GOP-led Legislature redrew the maps in violation of the state constitution.

The General Assembly is required to redraw the maps only after each Census and before the ensuing general election - not at any other time, the court said in a closely watched 5-2 decision that followed party lines. A similar court battle is being waged in Texas.

On the one hand, this is probably just as well, as I am increasingly of the point of view that the entire way we redistrict is seriously flawed, so perhaps it is wise to put the brakes on this redistricting in midstream. However, on the other hand it strikes me as reasonable that if the most recent redistricting was done by the courts and not the legislature, that the next legislature should have the right to revisit the lines drawn by the judiciary. In other words, I think that redistricting is kosher mid-stream if the legislature of the state (assuming that that is the nexus of redistricting power in that state) has not yet actualy put forth their own set of lines. It strikes me as fundamentally more democratic for the legislature to draw the lines than for the courts to draw the lines.

Indeed, if stalemated legislatures knew that the next legislature would be able to redraw a court-drawn set of lines, then they might be more amenable to compromise. As it stands, if there is a switch of party (or even a shift in the relative power of the two) from one redistricting to the next the party that was in power during the previous redistricting process has an incentive to hold out and hope for a court-mandates solution, which will likely be based on the previous set of lines.

This is what happened in Texas: the Democrats controlled the legislature in 1991, when the 92-00 lines were drawn. When there was a stalemate in 2001, the courts simply tweaked the 1991 version of the districts which, shockingly, favored the Democrats.

Update: This is my OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: BELTWAY TRAFFIC JAM entry of the day.

Filed under: US Politics

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