Time to put an end to the gerrymander

By Editorial Staff
Published July 23rd 2005 in San Antonio-Express News
Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., introduced the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act on Sunday. Elbridge Gerry must be turning in his grave.

Gerry was a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also the father of the gerrymander, the process of drawing congressional districts for partisan gain. He would have turned 261 on Sunday.

Tanner's measure would require each state to create an independent redistricting commission of no less than five members. The commission would be charged with drawing that state's congressional district map once every 10 years, no more and no less.

Texans have some firsthand knowledge of how elected leaders of both parties can manipulate the redistricting process for partisan gain. The wounds of the 2003 redistricting fight - which redrew congressional boundaries for the second time in as many years - are still fresh.

That battle royal was a political payback for decades of redistricting that drew lines in a different direction.

Aside from the partisan acrimony, the current method of redistricting creates a stunningly uncompetitive political environment. Politicians stack and pack voters into safe districts for both Republicans and Democrats.

Outside of Texas, where four incumbent Democrats were targeted in redistricting and defeated, only three of 399 congressional incumbents who ran for re-election lost their seats last November.

There is a better way. A handful of states already have independent commissions that take redistricting out of the hands of partisan, elected officials. State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has been a tireless advocate for this approach in Texas.

Tanner's proposal in Congress would make independent redistricting commissions the law of the land. Among the 36 bipartisan co-sponsors of his measure, astonishingly not one is from Texas.

Texas representatives, more than most, should understand the necessity for the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act. Texas voters should demand that they support it.

Here's how to contact your representative:

District 20 Rep. Charlie Gonzalez: (202) 225-3236.

District 21 Rep. Lamar Smith: (202) 225-4236.

District 23 Rep. Henry Bonilla: (202) 225-4511.

District 28 Rep. Henry Cuellar: (202) 225-1640.

To determine your representative or find representatives for other districts, go to MySA.com and type in keyword "politics."