Scrap restructuring process; shut out legislators and parties

Gerrymandering goes before SCOTUS next week...

Gerrymandering goes before SCOTUS next week…

In response to this Tweet today from Andy Shain:

… I had this response:

  1. Scrap the system. It has made a mockery of our system of representative democracy. The real election should be in the fall, not in the primary. Parties should not own districts.
  2. Take it away from lawmakers. For too long, we’ve let legislators pick their voters rather than the other way around. Courts have allowed incumbents to protect themselves this way.
  3. Shut both parties out of the process. Set up a truly independent commission to draw the lines — political scientists, demographers and the like. Don’t allow anyone who has run for office under the banner of either major party to be on the commission.

OK, that last qualification may be tough, but it still leaves the third of us with no party affiliations, and that’s plenty of people to choose from. And here’s my first nomination for the commission: Bubba Cromer, who served honorably in the House after being elected and re-elected as an independent. (Once, then-Speaker David Wilkins pointed to Bubba crossing the street and said, “There goes the chairman of your caucus.” I agreed.)

But I’ll admit it’ll be tough to find unaffiliated people who know what they’re doing. So I might have to back off on that one requirement. Fortunately, there are honorable Democrats and Republicans out there.

The biggest problem, though, is figuring out a good way to choose the commissioners. Who will elect or appoint them? I can’t see going the popular election route or letting lawmakers pick them. So how do we get a good group of line-drawers? Ideas?

Don't let anyone currently elected to serve in this building onto the commission.

Don’t let anyone currently elected to serve in this building onto the commission.

23 thoughts on “Scrap restructuring process; shut out legislators and parties

  1. Lynn Teague

    The League of Women Voters supports H.4456, filed by representatives Clary, Funderburk, Bernstein and Elliott. It takes the General Assembly out of the early part of the process although not the final vote. Equally important, it prohibits using protection of incumbents or parties as a criterion in redistricting. The national experience of the League has been that the criteria matter immensely. (In the past, incumbent protection has been an explicit criterion under guidelines for redistricting in South Carolina. It has also been a huge part of the actual process.) One study has argued that independent panels don’t do much to improve the process. We would say that without control of criteria to prevent these inappropriate standards, no process will work well.

  2. Doug Ross

    What inventive do legislators have to support this?

    There are plenty of libertarians out there who are completely neutral and could figure out a fair system. I’m available.

    1. bud

      Plenty of Libertarians out there who are neutral …

      Given their low level of support it would be impossible for them to draw lines that would give them a chance to win 🙂

      This is really, really easy to do if politics could just be taken out of it. In just a few minutes I drew 7 congressional districts that were mostly competitive. A couple leaned heavily to the Republicans but in red SC that is probably unavoidable. My districts were strictly based on county lines and would require some tweaking to get ideal populations. But of course getting politics out of it is the giant elephant in the room.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, libertarianism is very popular — unfortunately.

        That’s why over the years, both Democrats and Republicans have espoused libertarian ideas. They’ve picked the popular ones, which has left the Libertarian Party bereft of support.

        Also, I think a lot of people see that the party is kind of one-trick pony (having used that cliche recently, I was going to say “One-Note Samba” instead, except that song is awesome, and that would undermine my point).

        “Liberty” is an important ideal. But it’s not the answer to every issue that arises. The world is more complicated than that. Libertarians need to have some other ideas as well, and they don’t…

        1. Doug Ross

          “The world is more complicated than that”

          As a result of a government that is unnecessarily complex and inefficient.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, Doug. If there were no government, things would far MORE complicated. Government doesn’t shape your existence. And complexity is an inevitable factor of existence, in this universe anyway…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      None whatsoever, in self-interest terms. Particularly for Republican. The current system has been their initial means of seizing power in the early 90s, and their method of consolidating and maintaining their control since. Which is why you mostly only hear Democrats talking about this. Of course, there are Democrats who like their districts this way, too. The GOP may have drawn them into a permanent minority, but this way many of them, too, have very safe districts.

      That’s why, politically, this may be the toughest of all reforms… but also probably the most worthwhile….

      1. bud

        Second only to ridding the country of the even more awful electoral college. Both are unlikely to go away any time soon.

      2. Lynn Teague

        I don’t expect it to be easy. The public needs to get engaged on this, active enough to help motivate reluctant legislators. There are a lot of good reasons, beyond stopping this nonsense of our votes too often meaning nothing because the politicians have already picked their voters. Gerrymandering makes more extreme candidates viable, which is undesirable to those who care about having a party that can actually function. From the point of view of business, getting roads fixed and adequate workforce training depend on people who can get things done and who have some reason to be accountable to the public.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes, it would. It’s a terrible idea, and lots of terrible ideas are easy to sell to the public. Donald Trump is a walking, talking embodiment of that principle. I refer you to his national security speech, his whole America First shtick, pulling out of TPP and the Paris accord, and pretty much anything else that comes out of his mouth.

            Protectionism has always been popular with a large segment of the population. So has nationalism, and xenophobia/nativism. And so it is with term limits.

            Essentially, people are inclined to cry out for something that amounts to “Stop me before I elect again!”

            Meanwhile, folks like Lynn who really, intimately understand how things work (way better than I do, in so many ways) can see that reapportionment reform is the best way to get what people sorta, kinda think they want from term limits….

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Lynn, I think you’re right that there’s some hope from some in the parties (“Gerrymandering makes more extreme candidates viable, which is undesirable to those who care about having a party that can actually function.).

          For a time, the Democratic and Republican parties were both chaired by guys who got it, and were willing to work together on reform. As I’ve said, those guys are my heroes for that, and it’s a great loss to the state that they’re no longer in those posts.

          But even while they were in office, the task before them was enormous. Matt and Jaime were able to see the big picture, but individual lawmakers, the ones who would have to decide on reform, have an immense urge to stick with the one that brung ’em. And the one that brung ’em was our current gerrymandered system….

          1. Doug Ross

            Want to place a bet on whether anything will be done to redraw lines that change politics in any way in South Carolina in the next decade? The odds today are 1000:1.

            There is zero incentive for the people who could do it to do it. None. It would take years to implement (following all the court challenges that would likely occur) followed by the two parties working out a scheme to make sure nothing really changes.

            But you keep tilting at those windmills…

  3. Harry Harris

    “Scrap the system.
    Take it away from lawmakers.
    Shut both parties out of the process. ”

    Dilly Dilly!

    1. Bart

      And off with them to the “Dungeon of Despair” – where they have been sending the general public to for decades. And no Bud Lights to brighten their day!!

        1. Bart

          I will have to acquiesce to you and Brad on beer of any kind. I don’t care for it at all. Nothing against beer drinkers because if I were to insult beer drinkers, most on this blog would be PO’D big time.

          But I do like your reply bud.

          Dilly Dilly!!!

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      My own noble ancestors would most assuredly have sent their vassals or seneschals or whatever off to the dungeon had they offered up Bud Light. And yet we live in a time when it is the most popular beer in America.

      Which may explain Trump.

      And yet they call those days (when my noble ancestors were about) the dark ages…

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