ICYMI: Bipartisan ire foils N.J. Dems' gerrymandering scheme

Chris Satullo| December 18th, 2018

The New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton

Oops. The Democratic leaders of the New Jersey Legislature thought it would be easy to push through a new redistricting system that would all but lock in their party's control. They were wrong. Many liberals, including the state's governor, rose up in anger, joining with Republicans in decrying the plan.

Here is a good review of the situation from NorthJersey.com.

And here's what the superb New York Times' columnist David Leonhardt, fresh from battering Wisconsin Republicans for their efforts to curb the power of a newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general, had to say (in the daily Times opinion newsletter) about the partisan mess created by Trenton's legislative leaders:

"Good news: The gerrymandering plan in New Jersey — pushed by Democrats — appears to have died. It did so because of an outcry from progressive activists. Those activists put principle above partisan advantage, rallying to defeat the plan even though it probably would have benefited Democrats. ...

"I take two larger messages from the New Jersey episode: One, the new progressive grass-roots movement isn’t just about President Trump. It can affect politics in ways that have nothing to do with him. And it cares about ideals larger than the electoral fortunes of the Democratic Party.

"Two, the country still needs a federal law to restrict gerrymandering. Today, politicians of both parties engage in the practice — and effectively disempower voters in the process. The Republicans have done more gerrymandering than Democrats lately. But Democrats have done it too, notably in Maryland and Illinois. So I hope politicians of both parties will be open to a federal law that bars politicians from drawing their own districts. Independent, nonpartisan officials should do so instead."

Or voters, David, ordinary voters.  Draw the Lines PA is a demonstration project for the proposition that having voters make the maps is a realistic, pratical solution.  And it's working. Of the 318 valid congressional maps of Pennsylvania entered in our first mapping competition, which closed Dec. 14, probably at least 300 are clearly better than the mess that Harrisburg politicans foisted on us back in 2011.

In Mother Jones magazine, Kevin Drum makes another good point about the Trenton mess.  It could boost the chances of a solution emerging from federal courts, by reminding the members of the U.S. Supreme Court that gerrymandering is a Democratic sin, too. 

In Pennsylvania, because our last gerrymander was of Republican flavor, and really, really sour, we sometimes tend to forget that point.  So thank you, Steve Sweeney, Craig Coughlin and the rest of the clueless Trenton caucus, for reminding us that Democrats seek to tilt the playing field unfairly, too.

The problem is not about red vs. blue. It's about power seeking to stay in power.  It's about who's in the room when the lines get drawn, and who gets shut out. Last time in Pennsylvania, it was about 12.5 million of us standing outside a locked room, wondering what was about to hit us.

Next time, let's make sure, since it's our House, that it's our mouse. Let's slay the gerrymander.