Sunday, April 30, 2006

Georgia: Is non-partisan redistricting possible?

Georgia considers redistricting reform

4/30/2006 Gwinnett Daily Post ....“It’s partisan, selfish politics at its most bare knuckles,’’ said Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a good-government organization that favors handling redistricting through independent commissions. Bozarth said the worst effect of partisan redistricting is that it creates more noncompetitive districts. The party in power packs the other party’s voters into districts where the opposition party is expected to win anyway, leaving the majority party’s candidates with safer districts elsewhere on the map. The result is that politicians running in — and later representing — most districts are free to take strongly partisan positions that appeal to their constituents, the great majority of whom are either very conservative or very liberal. There’s no motive to look for middle ground on key issues. “You get a lot more stridency in the debate,’’ Bozarth said. But it’s the deluge of news stories across the country in recent years exposing the partisan nature of redistricting that is convincing more states to opt for independent commissions. By the beginning of last year, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures, six states were using independent commissions to draw congressional district lines and another six were having commissions decide both congressional and legislative maps. The list includes such Republican-leaning “red’’ states as Montana and Idaho and “blue’’ states like New Jersey and Washington, where Democrats hold sway. Two other states have commissions that advise their legislatures on redistricting but don’t make the final decision, while five others only use commissions as a backup in case the legislature can’t agree on maps. “It’s a national trend,’’ said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University and another member of the new task force. “Ethics has been a hot issue. People want a system that’s less controversial.’’ .... more

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