Dan Walters has a piece in the SacBee about the current reform initiative. He clearly sees the need for reform but doesn’t believe the commission is the right way to go about it. The two problems he highlights are 1) the absence of congressional districts and 2) that random commissioners may not have the expertise to make good decisions. His recommendation is to allow the court to draw the lines as in 1973 and ’91.
Leaving congressional seats in the hands of state lawmakers is one flaw. With term limits still in place, legislators would be sorely tempted to manufacture congressional districts for themselves. That could mean stripping Republicans of as many as a half-dozen districts to satisfy Democrats’ career ambitions, as well as bolstering Democratic control of Congress. If gerrymandering is bad public policy, it’s just as bad at the congressional level as it is in the Legislature.
The semi-random manner in which the 14-member commission is to be chosen is another disaster waiting to happen. We could easily wind up with a commission that’s incapable of grasping a very complex and technical process and thus be easily swayed by outside experts working for parties or political factions.
We had two fair redistricting rounds under the state Supreme Court, so we know what works well. We should be emulating what happened in 1973 and 1991 rather than reinventing a complicated wheel with unknown consequences.