The next in our ten part series on the Republican redistricting reform proposals. If you are a subscriber to our free newsletter than you will already have seen 10 through 6. If you haven’t subscribed, click here.
Number ten was about Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s utterly unverifyable and untrue claim that his plan would create more competitve districts. Read it here.
9. Shapes are meaningless.
At the Common Cause/League of Women Voters hosted seminar on redistricting held late last year in the Indiana Senate chambers, Secretary of State Rokita put forth his plan for redistricting the state. First in a cutesy video and then in a PowerPoint he showed some selected shapes of Indiana House and Senate districts. They stretched and curved so as to appear very tortured and he presented it all as if there was obviously some very, very sinister plot at work.
Then he spoke of how, if his plan were implemented then no political data and voting histories would be considered and the main concerns when drawing the districts would be compactness and communities of interest as the chief concerns.
He then presented a map that he and his staff had drawn “without political data and following these rules of compactness.”
Here came a truly telling moment in the presentation. He showed his map of the state and picked some select districts made almost entirely of whole counties or townships and then with a Cheshire grin turned to the assembled and said, “There, doesn’t that look better.”
Doesn’t that look better? What a truly infantile approach to creation of voting districts. With that phrase he boiled down his argument to the depth of a Project Runway episode. His argument for his brand of electoral cartography boils down to esthetics? Great.
But it is more than that. To create fair districts that maintain the “one person, one vote” principle established by the U. S. Supreme Court you have to look at more, and county and township lines are hardly true communities of interest to be grouped as such.
Messy looking maps are largely just a part of the process.
“Who said these lines have to look pretty?” IU Law Professor and Political Scientist Luis Fuentes-Rohwer who shared the panel with Rokita that day pointed out in an interview this week. “One person, one vote clearly is the culprit here for maps looking the way they do. Once you force maps to come as close as they can to equality within plus or minus 10 percent, once you add in section two of the Voting Rights Act (of 1964), communities of interest and the like, maps will start to look ugly.
The good professor points out that arguing about a maps shape is meaningless at best and more likely misleading. “To look at a map’s shape without other information and say ‘look here is a problem’ without other data, that’s just not going to cut it.”
“If you really want to fix it set a commission,” he continues, “If he (Rokita) is really interested in being a reformer, then set-up a bi-partisan or a non-partisan commission. But that won’t pass because if you’re a Republican you’d be crazy to do it.”
That, good doctor, is precisely the rub. The Secretary is not interested in reform. He is interested in self-elevation.