CIVIL / HUMAN RIGHTS
WE NEED AN INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION
The partisan struggle to keep redistricting out of the public’s hands knows no boundaries.
What’s really going on?
Once the census data is provided to states, legislative districts must be redrawn to ensure they are equal in population.
Delaware is only one of three states that does not have public input in the redistricting process. With no checks and balances protecting the public interest, the Legislature has total control in drawing state Representative and Senatorial districts. Therefore, incumbents can use increasingly sophisticated computer software and demographic and election data to literally choose the voters before the voters have a chance to choose them. By using techniques like “packing”, whereby lines are drawn to concentrate many supporters of political opponents in a few election districts, and “cracking”, where the opponent’s supporters are split among several other representative districts, incumbent legislators can dramatically heighten their chances of continued re-election in the next decade.
Some Legislators have become so adept at this they have not had any opponents in many, many years. This lack of opposition gives a senator or representative absolute power, and no legislator is more likely to make decisions without regard to the public interest than one who has such absolute power.
Moreover, political parties with full control of the process in Delaware, such as the Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the Senate, will seek to cement and perpetuate their power throughout this decade. In the 2000 election, out of the 54 available seats open in both the House and Senate, incumbents won 49. Previous elections show the same pattern.
Redistricting, or shall we say the “incumbent protection process”, is the leading cause of uninspiring, choice-less elections in Delaware. . If you are a Democrat in a solidly Republican district, or a Republican in a solidly Democratic district, or a supporter of a minor party everywhere, you don’t have a chance of electing your candidate.
What can be done? Redistricting will happen, now, before the end of June and the partisan technocrats already are drawing their maps.
Two major, absolutely necessary approaches should be implemented.
1. At the least, redistricting should be a public process, with full media coverage and citizen input.
2. To do it right, redistricting should be taken out of the hands of the incumbents and given to independent commissions guided by non-political-partisan criteria.
The United States Supreme Court has set forth guidelines for the fair redistricting of states. These criteria are routinely given lip service, but in reality, ignored in Delaware. A citizen suit to overturn an unlawful redistricting is not only expensive, but would throw the political process into disarray. The Legislature must be convinced now that the public will not tolerate another improper redistricting. It is time for people who value democracy to protect their voting rights in Delaware.
If you want your vote to count the next ten years, you must get involved today. Speak to your Legislator, write the newspapers, pass around petitions, call talk shows, and get your neighbors to do the same.
The Independent Party of Delaware guaratees a Constitutional Amendment for an Independent Redistricting Commission will be submitted in the next session.