Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historical boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.
This is the brain-child of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. And if he gets his way (and I’ll do all I can to see that he does) it will become the next Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is one of six proposed Amendments he is advocating in a new book (appropriately titled Six Amendments) to come out later this year.
Right now, though, the one that excites me is the one above regarding on political gerrymandering. Folks that know me at all know that I have long been a critic of such practices, whether done by Democrats or Republicans. Just within the last month, I had a piece in the Charlotte Observer complimenting the conservative Republican Secretary State of Ohio for his enlightened and courageous stand on the issue. (The practice is also especially bad in North Carolina.)
As I’ve noted before in another op-ed piece, The vast majority of this nation’s Congressional districts are surgically tailored to protect incumbents from one party or the other. This precise “gerrymandering” produces representatives who have zero incentive for reasoned compromise; indeed it is more likely to be penalized.
Thus, we have a situation where far more often politicians are pick their voters rather than voters having any substantive say in choosing their representatives.