NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 29, 2006

On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 2003 Texas redistricting map; ruling that although the Republican dominated Texas Legislature clearly had partisan motives, it did not warrant an unconstitutional gerrymander.  In its ruling, the court noted that Texas Democrats once orchestrated an equally partisan remap, described as "the shrewdest gerrymander of the 1990s," says USA Today.

Right or wrong, Texas is not the only state redrawing maps for political gain.  For proof, you need only look at the most recent national elections:

  • In 2004, only 10 House races were really competitive, decided by less than 5 percentage points.
  • In Tennessee, every incumbent won, and the average victory margin was 48 percentage points.
  • In California, none of the 173 U.S. House or state legislative seats changed hands.

Partisan districts have always be a part of politics, only today, computers enable them to do it so effectively that no more than a few dozen of the 435 House of Representatives' seats are competitive in any election. 

But as formidable as that obstacle seems, it is not insurmountable, says USA Today.  In Congress, two bills mandating reforms in every state have garnered 64 sponsors.  And several states have already changed their ways:

  • In 1980, Iowa turned over remapping to technocrats operating under orders to draw compact and contiguous districts.
  • In Arizona, a 2000 voter initiative handed redistricting to a commission, giving it explicit instructions to draw competitive districts.

Source: Editorial, "A way to put competition back into elections," USA Today, June 29, 2006

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