Thursday, January 06, 2005

Breaking the machine

The New York Times lays out Arnold Schwarzenhager's ambitious agenda this year in California, including a plan to take congressional redistricting away from the Legislature and giving it to a panel of retired judges. Redistricting has become a nice little racket for both parties, which in many states conspire to create districts that are safe for encumbents. It means few competitive seats and few real choices for voters:

According to The Cook Political Report, 151 Congressional seats were considered competitive after the redistricting that followed the 1990 census. After the 2000 redistricting, only 45 seats were considered competitive. In 2004, only 13 changed party hands and only 7 incumbents lost.

Of course, in California, it is the Guvinator's party, the GOP, which would stand to gain the most if the current system was changed, as Democrats are the majority in the Legislature, and the Legislature draws congressional districts. But that doesn't mean it's not a good idea. If Schwarzenhager makes good on his threat to take the matter to the voters if necessary, let's hope they do the right thing. Maybe it will an inspiration for the rest of us.


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