The Right Coast

March 14, 2004
Just Say No To Gerrymandering, Part II
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Interesting paper by Columbia law professor Sam Issacharoff on gerrymandered elections and the rise of "direct democracy". Issacharoff doesn't like "direct democracy" -- whether ballot initiatives or recalls of elected office-holders -- and he thinks the Framers didn't like it either. But he argues that gerrymandering has increasingly insulated Congress, in particular, from any electoral competition, and has contributed to the dramatic polarization of the political parties: Democrats to the political left, Republicans to the right. Voters, most of them centrists, are relegated to "direct democracy" if they want to have any influence at all on public policy. Hence, says Issacharoff, the stunning majority for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California recall election.

Along similar lines, this RightCoaster has urged Gov. Schwarzenegger to support an initiative that would take Congressional districting in California out of the gerrymander-happy hands of the legislature, and perhaps to create a non-partisan redistricting commission along the lines of Iowa's. (It makes a dramatic difference in Iowa. There are 40 or fewer "competitive" House races in the entire country, out of 435 seats. Iowa, with one percent of the national electorate and one percent of the House seats, has ten percent of the competitive races...)