Yesterday proved that the latest round of redistricting was a blow to democracy. According to the News & Observer, at the end of the filing period, almost a third of the legislative districts do not have races. What the article does not say, is that the majority of the rest of them aren’t competitive.
We can blame Republicans since they are in power, but we would be blaming Democrats if they were. Mapping technology has enabled legislators to precisely pick their districts down to the person. As a result, the majority of legislators aren’t responsible to the voters and in highly partisan primaries, the most extreme candidates tend to get elected, contributing to the polarization that we see today.
In politics as in business, competition is good. It forces our elected officials to be responsible to the people they are supposed to serve. It also ensures that they have to at least consider the opinions of people who disagree with them. Without competition, politicians can get insular, arrogant and lazy. It’s not good for anybody except the politician who is too secure in his/her job.
In 2012, roughly half the state voted for GOP legislators and half voted for Democrats. Same with Congress. However, Republicans ended up with a 9-4 advantage in the Congressional delegation and almost two-thirds of the legislative seats. That’s not democracy.
Republicans would be wise to look at redistricting reform. By the next redistricting, they will have been in charge long enough to leave their mark on state government. But by then, they also might not have power. Without redistricting reform, Democrats will be under pressure from their base to exert revenge and make mirror opposite districts.
It’s time to change the system. Other states have successfully instituted redistricting commissions. We should, too.