What is, in my opinion, the most important ruling to come from this year’s Supreme Court session has barely registered a blip on the media radar. Since it involves a rather mundane topic, it doesn’t garner the headlines like the PPACA or same-sex marriage does. However, the ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314 can and should have a far-reaching and long-term impact on the political process in America.
This case ruled affirmatively that commissions voted on by the people are constitutional when it comes to drawing up redistricting maps. Given how politicians are laser-like focused on protecting their own asses and their party’s rule, this is a step towards returning this country to a representative democracy. What we have now is an absurd joke. I remember reading a post from Nate Silver’s 538 Blog years ago how we’ve gone from more than 100 competitive House districts in the 1992 election to around 30 twenty years later. That’s the long-term effect of gerrymandering.
I’m both surprised and appalled that nobody’s really been celebrating this ruling. I’m surprised because this topic isn’t as glamorous as health care or same-sex marriage. There hasn’t been the constant drumbeat in the media over the redistricting process, unlike the two aforementioned issues. Redistricting is something that’s usually done behind closed doors and out of the public eye, and that has to change if we’re going to return to a government that works for the people instead of against the people.
I’m appalled for the very same reasons. People should give a damn about how their voting districts are carved up. They should be concerned when politicians move the maps around to concentrate a particular voting bloc to one district. It may very well help “your team” this time, but it may be your ox being gored on the next go around. I personally don’t think any politician should have a “comfortable seat” because that removes the incentive for them to represent ALL voters in their districts. When a politician sits in a district filled with more of his own voters, he will tend to ignore or neglect those who wouldn’t vote for him anyway. That’s wrong because whether a person votes for you or not, you are still their elected representative in Washington D.C.
I tip my hat to the SCOTUS on this decision. I think this will decision will go a long way towards giving people a true voice in D.C. now. At the same time, I expect this to be swept under the rug as quickly as possible. If the voters in all states jumped on this bandwagon, it would be an effective countermeasure to the financial arms race going on to elect people beholden to monied partisan interest groups and individuals. These types of commissions should be the law of the land to give American voters confidence that their elected representatives will better represent the people who elected them as opposed to those who lined their campaign coffers. The party apparatus will undoubtedly loathe this decision because it takes power from them and gives it to the voters instead.