Redistricting on the Ropes?

Tom “The Hammer” DeLay. Now that’s a name we have not heard in a while. Ever since the fundraisers for the organizations Texans for a Republican Majority, Americans for a Republican Majority, and the Republican National State Elections Committee were indicted on money laundering charges DeLay has kept a low profile. Yesterday a Texas district judge refused to dismiss charges against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis so it is likely that DeLay will continue to lay low for at least a little while longer.

Aside from being the House Majority Leader, which is a very powerful position in and of itself, DeLay wields extraordinary power in another area, redistricting. I really don’t know how long the process of carving up congressional districts at a State level has been going on but I do know that DeLay became the master of it. This process, more than any other single factor, is responsible for the majority status the Republicans enjoy in both the State and Federal House levels. When Republicans saw what DeLay was able to do in Texas they quickly repeated the process across the nation.

In my district, a traditionally heavy Democratic area, the Republicans were able to carve out just enough of the right leaning suburbs to give Melissa Hart (R) a victory in 2002.

Many state Republicans credit Rep. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.) as a crucial player in the development of the new plan. Hart represents a Democratic-leaning district, but she told legislators she did not want to lose many of her Democratic constituents, arguing that they could well turn into reliable Republican voters. This freed legislators to use nearby Republican areas to strengthen the party in other districts.

This effort in PA, as in many other states, netted the Republicans 10 additional congressional seats at the national level and a 9 at the state level. While it is apparently perfectly legal for this district wrangling to take place, many people are starting recognize the inherent disenfranchisement is causes to the citizens in those districts. In Ohio, a fight is underway to change the state constitution to reverse these changes as well as to wrest control of the voting apparatus away from political partisans.

Critics of the Republican grip on Ohio politics filed petitions on Tuesday that seek a statewide vote on three constitutional amendments that would overturn the way elections are run and strip elected officials of their power to draw legislative districts.

The move, by the group Reform Ohio Now, is an effort to tap into sentiment across the country to remove political influence from the mechanics of elections. The movement has been sparked in part by partisan lines that are sharply reducing electoral competition in Congress and by efforts by political outsiders like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to upend the established order.

Of the three amendments proposed by Reform Ohio Now, the most significant one is geared toward stripping redistricting power away from Republican elected officials. I for one believe that if this effort in Ohio is successful it will create a domino effect across the nation. For that reason the Republican party is poised to challenge this thing every step of the way.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Finan said if the suit failed, a new group he had founded, Ohio First, would take up the cause with the expected backing of Republicans in Washington. Mr. Finan predicted that if the redistricting amendment became law, Republicans would lose six seats in the House of Representatives and that “you’ll see this idea spread to other states.”

“Right now, we have 12 Republican congressmen and 6 Democrats,” he said. “If this passes, in 2008 you will see 6 Republicans and 12 Democrats.”

Being that I am just a lowly internet pundit my interests reside on the side of the citizen and not the political machine. What I would like to know from you dear reader, is how do you feel about congressional redistricting? Is it “all fair in love and war” (vis-a-vis politics)? Or do you think this entire thing is a scam? Personally I see it as a concerted effort by those in power to take advantage of a vague system in order to create a permanent majority.

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