Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Sarahmander

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe GOP House redistricting plan authored by Rep. Sarah Anderson passed out of committee Tuesday on a party line vote. Despite this, the plan is fair, or so say's it's author:

[Rep.] Anderson characterized her propsal as a "fair plan" that is based on the population growth derived from the 2010 census.

Of course those responsible for drawing the map consider it to be "fair," but is it?

Let's take a quick look at one aspect of the plan, the incumbents who would get drawn together. If this was truly a "fair" plan we would expect the instances of incumbents getting drawn together to breakdown roughly evenly between the types of match-ups. Is this what happens?

Incumbent match-ups in house GOP plan
GOP vs GOP: 1
DFL vs DFL: 7
DFL vs GOP: 5

All but one of the incumbent pairings includes a DFLer and the majority are DFL on DFL. Essentially what was done with the map was to draw first ring suburban DFLers into seats with outer ring suburban DFLers and GOPers while at the same time creating a bunch of suburban open seats ripe for GOP pickups.

The fact that the GOP map is so favorable to the GOP is hardly surprising but it's encouraging that unlike Virginia, where the state Dems basically got rolled, Minnesota Democrats rejected this blatant gerrymander in committee, where it passed on a party line vote.

So what does the maps author, Rep. Anderson have to say about this DFL heavy incumbent packing?

Pairing incumbents wasn't our focus in putting together this plan. We tried to protect communities by avoiding carving up cities and counties.

To which I respond; *cough*Bullshit*cough*.

I mean, even Larry Jacobs doesn't like it:

But the map is pretty clearly drawn to protect Republicans, said Larry Jacobs, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. It pairs far more Democratic than Republican incumbents, and many lines seem to be drawn to provide safe districts for members of the large GOP freshman class. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would likely veto it.

"My concern is this map is going to be dead on arrival because it appears to favor Republicans, and I'm not sure what's gained by that," Jacobs said.

The GOP basically had two options for drawing their maps; the mutual option or the go it alone option. The mutual option, which appears to be completely off the table at this point in time, would have been something worked out between the two parties that they could both agree on.

Once the GOP knows that they aren't going to be able to work out a deal, or they decide they don't want to work out a deal, there isn't much point in drawing a subtle gerrymander, they're probably better off drawing the "traditional" map that favors them the most (traditional meaning they follow all the standard rules; compactness, not splitting towns and counties, etc).

This is because if the courts end up drawing the final maps, the maps created by the two parties will be considered as part of that effort and the GOP will want to make sure the judges see some of their "ideas."

I'm not going to spend too much time breaking this map down because the chances of it actually becoming law are exceedingly unlikely, but it does provide an example of what a good partisan gerrymander looks like; make incumbents of the other party fight it out and create open seats in territory favorable to your side.

Nice gerrymander Sarah Anderson!


I want to take this opportunity to get back onto a favorite hobby horse of mine, the much talked about, Minnesota Redistricting Commission. If you're unaware of what I'm talking about it's the brainchild of Walter Mondale, Arne Carlson, Al Quie and Roger Moe, so it must be super good and extra bipartisan.

A quick explanation:

The Mondale-Carlson plan establishes a five-person commission of retired appellate judges - four appointed by legislative leaders of the two parties and one selected by the four appointees. Their commission's redistricting plan would go back to the Legislature and governor for an up-or-down vote. Mondale and Carlson believe there would be strong political pressure to support the commission plan.

Larry Jacobs, whom I mentioned earlier, also favors the "retired judges" method of redistricting.

[Jacobs] prefers an alternative previously supported by the state's three major parties that would have "unelected, nonpartisan retired judges" draw the maps and submit them to the Legislature and governor for up or down votes.

Basically the entire Minnesota political class supports this commission idea and they all keep going back to it as a sure cure for all of our redistricting woes. The Mondale-Carlson redistricting plan is a virulent idea and likes to plant itself into the brains of supposedly reasonable people. It's a solution that doesn't really solve the problem it seeks to solve, it simply paints that problem with a nice bi-partisan brush and calls it a day, while not actually addressing any of the root issues.

Why is it better to have a panel of "unelected, nonpartisan retired judges" draw maps that the legislature and governor still have to approve? Why are unelected judges the right people to draw the lines? Is there such a thing as a non-partisan judge? How do you know a judge is non-partisan? Shouldn't there be a few citizen's on such a panel, like in Minneapolis?

If the idea is to take politics out of redistricting, than why do politicians select the "non-partisan" judges? And if we're just going to let judges draw the lines, why not keep the system we have, since that's who almost always ends up drawing the lines anyway. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I'm not against the idea of a non-partisan redistricting commission, I'm against this particular non-partisan redistricting commission.

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