Headline hunters at work
August 30, 2012
Wisconsin voters have more immediate concerns, but it’s prudent to keep watch on a proposal that might gain traction with promoters of “reforms” that invariably make things worse.
We have in mind the recurring dream floated by State Senators Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen, in which peace and harmony are achieved by creating an independent commission to draw legislative district lines.
Schultz (R) and Cullen (D) have formed a two-man Mr. Rogers Caucus conducting occasional road shows advocating the kind of ideas newspaper editorial boards find irresistible. Most irresistible are ideas that remove choices from the hands of voters and the people voters elect to represent them.
Last week, Schultz and Cullen rolled out a squishily-reasoned op-ed bewailing a redistricting system in which elections are insufficiently competitive and “neighbors living across the street from one another will be represented by different senators and representatives.”
News flash, senators! If there are going to be district lines, there are going to be neighbors living on either side of them.
As for competitive versus “safe” districts, Schultz and Cullen themselves note a 70 percent turnover of Wisconsin legislative seats during the past decade.
Since 1980, a nonpartisan legislative service agency has conducted Iowa redistricting under rules that don’t allow division of towns or counties and prohibit consideration of a municipality’s partisan voting tendencies.
How’s that worked out in terms of competitive elections?
Iowa has five members of the House of Representatives. One has been in office for ten years, one for 15, one for 17. The two least-senior, having replaced members who served for 30 and 16 years, respectively, are likely to win their own fourth terms this fall.
That’s far from an obvious improvement over leaving the job to the voters’ elected representatives.