The Politics of Redistricting

Column: In the hands of politicians, redistricting can be poisonous. The cure is an independent commission to draw maps, not politicians

When the U.S. Census is conducted, politicians and their staff draw maps to ensure that as many people as possible live in their districts. With less than five months to go, this process has become a political football, with some politicians accusing their opponents of racism for drawing districts that exclude them.

“These are not political maps. These are racist maps,” says Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

McConnell has accused others of using “redistricting as a way to gain or maintain power,” adding that redistricting is “a way to divide us.”

A map drawn by Republicans to draw a congressional district for him could exclude as many as 20,000 potential constituents from the district, an analysis by the Center for Equal Opportunity, for example, says.

The map drawn by Republicans has drawn accusations of racism both from and against their opponents.

‘We are going to send a message to the courts and the people who are looking to take this issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, that voters deserve more than redrawn maps.’ – Congressman John Lewis, Democrat from Georgia, at a recent press conference for his lawsuit to stop Republicans from drawing a new district for him.

And it is not just Republicans. Democratic attorney general Eric Holder said in September: “To be a good citizen, it is important to realize that we are a nation of many communities. We are a nation defined by many cultures, and we have a shared commitment to the rule of law, the American Way of Democracy, and the basic democratic ideals that our government is founded on.”

So what is wrong with the process? Or is there something right? In the hands of politicians, redistricting can be poisonous. The cure is an independent commission to draw maps, not politicians or political appointees.

A new report from the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) shows how some states have been manipulating the redistricting process. A number of states—including Virginia and Florida—have taken steps to “refuse to comply with the U.S. Census.�

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