Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Demise of Democracy


Today, David Broder takes on the issue of redistricting - the creation of "safe districts" where the incumbent often runs unopposed, describing the account of a Florida resident.
"I pointed out to an election official at our polling place that there was no House race on the ballot, even though congressmen and women were up every two years. She immediately called the Volusia County supervisor of elections for an explanation.

"While she was on the phone . . . I was informed that my congressman, John Mica, was unopposed. I said, 'I knew that, but shouldn't his name be on the ballot, with a line below it for a write-in candidate?' That seemed traditional to me. I asked whether Mica didn't need to get at least one registered vote somewhere so he could be returned to Washington as an 'elected official' to serve another two years. The answer came back over the phone that Mica had been 'automatically reinstated in Washington.'
Last year, the Supreme Court came pretty close to declaring redistricting to be a "political issue", not ordinarily subject to judicial review. The Court was ostensibly frustrated with the fact that its prior decisions of the subject had not proved to create workable standards for the lower courts, and the growing minority argued that (absent patent illegality, such as redistricting with a racially discriminatory intention) the issue belongs in the political arena, not the courts.

Of course, as the Florida case detailed above indicates, and as the Republicans demonstrated in Texas, if you leave this to the politicians, they will do their utmost to skew the system away from democracy. (It is my cynical belief that, now that the Texas model has created a precedent, absent a legal declaration of its unconstitutionality that model will be followed by both parties in the future. But then, isn't it easier for all of us when our politicians are "automatically reinstated", and we don't have to be bothered with those unseemly elections, challengers at the polls, and recounts?)

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