Every 10 years we take a census so that new political lines can be drawn for Congress and the state legislatures. It’s the state legislatures that draw the lines, which are then ratified like any other piece of legislation.
These lines really matter. As the Center for Voting and Democracy tells us, “With increasingly sophisticated computer software, polling results and demographic data, incumbent legislators quite literally choose the voters before the voters have a chance to choose them.” The Center notes that as a result of redistricting, “most voters are locked into one-party districts where their only real choice at election time is to ratify the incumbent or heir apparent.”
I’m not shocked that state legislators tend to reward themselves, at least those in the majority, with seats that are designed to elect . . . well, them. But how do congressmen get such nice treatment? After all, the congressmen don’t draw the district lines, not directly.
Good connections help. So does a little bribery. Take California, where Michael Berman, brother of Congressman Howard Berman, is the legislature’s appointed line-drawing guru. U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez publicly admits that she and 30 of the 32 Democratic congressional incumbents have already paid Berman $20,000 each for what she calls an “incumbent-protection plan.”
“Twenty thousand is nothing to keep your seat,” says Sanchez. “I spend $2 million every election. If my colleagues are smart, they’ll pay their $20,000, and Michael will draw the district they can win in.” She adds, “Those who have refused to pay? God help them.”
God help them? God help us.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.