October 20, 2014

Government

Party Lines in Redistricting Florida

Some want to take politics out of the process of drawing legislative and congressional voting districts. There are good reasons to change -- and good reasons to leave things alone.

Amy Keller | 3/1/2010
For reform
For Reform

Engage the Populace

Boundary-drawing should contribute to citizens' confidence in the electoral process. By ensuring that districts included a more natural mix of voters, races would tend to be more competitive. Citizens would have more confidence in the integrity of the election process and voter turnout would rise. In reviewing the factors that led to "voting and non-voting" in every U.S. election since 1960, Mark N. Franklin at Trinity College in Connecticut concluded that "highly competitive elections generate higher turnout than elections whose outcome is felt to be a foregone conclusion," especially among newer, younger voters.

Make the Pols Pay Attention

Making fewer districts "bulletproof" would force lawmakers to be more concerned with voters' needs and wants and less apt to focus on pleasing powerful interest groups and staying in the good graces of political party leaders. Lawmakers who have to be sensitive to a broader array of interests within a district would be more inclined to seek the middle ground in debates over public policy.

Nobody Else Does It This Way

Many foreign democracies wouldn't think of allowing politicians to draw their own districts. They rely on non-partisan bureaucratic "boundary" commissions to do the job. While Fair District Florida's plan wouldn't take the job out of the Legislature's hands, it attempts to make the process as apolitical as possible.


Congressional District 3

Rep. Corrine Brown’s district is 49% African-American. Rep. Corrine Brown


For reform
Against Reform

Legislatures Need Incumbents

The system — particularly Congress, with its seniority system — needs long-term incumbents. Long-term incumbents provide institutional memory for the lawmaking body. More important, they amass invaluable experience and clout. Frequent competitive races might bring fresh blood, but an evolving roster of newcomers is unlikely to get as much done for their constituents.

Extremists May Gain

Creating more competitive districts won't put more centrists in office or lead to more consensus-building among lawmakers. Research by Harvard lecturer David C. King finds that some of the most extreme members of Congress were elected from some of the most competitive districts in the nation. Highly competitive contests tend to invigorate the most extreme voters to turn out in primary elections, and those voters tend to elect more ideologically extreme candidates, not centrists. In essence, it's not partisan gerrymandering that's driving candidates to the extremes — it's the voters themselves.

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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