Saturday, December 8, 2012

Redistricting should be about representative government, not about creating "competitive districts"

by Michael Newton

The recent article in The Arizona Republic, “Election adds to debate over redistricting” continues the debate over the fairness of Arizona’s recent decennial redistricting. Republicans are upset that in state that voted for Romney (Rep) over Obama (Dem) 54% to 44% and Flake (Rep) over Carmona (Dem) 50% to 46% the Democrats managed to win 5 of the 9 federal legislative districts. They point to this as a sign that the system for redistricting was rigged by the Democrats.
Overlooked is a more fundamental problem with the whole redistricting process. The stated goal of the redistricting project was to make competitive as many districts as possible. The redistricting commission succeeded in creating 4 safe Republican districts, 2 safe Democrat districts, and 3 so-called competitive districts. Instead of gerrymandering the state to benefit a political party, they gerrymandered it to promote the goal of “competitive districts.”
But what is the real purpose of electing representatives to the House of Representative? As is self-evident from the name, the purpose is to elect people to represent their constituents. In creating these competitive districts, the state ensure that nearly half of the voters in those districts are not represented in Congress, or rather that they are represented by someone in Congress who holds views in contradiction to their own. To maximize the people’s representation in Congress, it would make more sense to gerrymander the state to create, in Arizona’s case, 5 safe Republican districts and 4 safe Democrat districts. Then, the Republicans can choose their representatives in their primaries and the Democrats can choose theirs as well. We live in a representative democracy, or so we are told. It makes little sense to purposely ensure voters go unrepresented.

Michael E. Newton is the author of The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society's Descent into Tyranny and Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution. He is currently writing a biography of Alexander Hamilton.

1 comment:

Steve Muratore aka Arizona Eagletarian said...

Yet, the goal of competitive legislative and Congressional districts is neither arbitrary nor capricious. It is a goal the voters of Arizona enshrined in our state constitution.

Obviously, overall in Arizona, the GOP succeeded in getting their voters out to vote. Democrats, in some areas (districts) did not succeed at the same rate, hence Romney's win of the electoral college votes and Flake's election to the US Senate.

When Democrats succeed at the same rate in their safe districts, the GOP will not achieve the same electoral outcomes in statewide races.