Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Democrats Not Eager to Emulate Texas's Redistricting

WaPo Democrats cried foul three years ago when Texas Republicans rammed through a highly partisan redistricting to gain an advantage in several House races. Now, a recent Supreme Court ruling that blessed the Texas plan gives Democrats a chance to show that turnabout is fair play. But early indications are that Democrats will probably resist the temptation to do unto Republicans as Republicans did unto them. Under the prodding of then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), Texas state lawmakers abandoned custom by redrawing district lines without waiting for the next decennial census. The move effectively added at least five seats to the GOP's House majority.

The thing WaPo leaves out, is that the Texas Legislature did not redraw the boundaries in 2000. The legislature could not agree how to do it, so a Democratic controled judiciary drew the lines.
First, Democrats must compile a list of states where a DeLay-like strategy is feasible. It will be remarkably short. Several states assign the redistricting task to commissions, shielding the process from partisan control. Some states, such as Texas, are controlled by Republicans. Many others have divided government, in which neither party controls both the governorship and the two legislative chambers, making blatantly partisan redistricting impossible. Finally, some Democratic-controlled states have already carved out all the Democratic-leaning House districts they can, leaving no room for gains.
So it is not that they don't want to; they can't, because they already have.
The result, redistricting experts say, yields perhaps four states where Democrats conceivably could try a mid-decade gerrymander comparable to that of Texas's: Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and Louisiana. In each one, however, such a move seems unlikely because of factors that include racial politics, Democratic cautiousness and even a hurricane's impact.

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