Letter: Leave power in hands of elected government

From: R. Andrew Robertson


In their zeal to do something, anything, about gerrymandering in Indiana some have put misplaced hope in entities other than the elected Legislature. There is no reason to believe that these others will do better, and there are good reasons to be suspicious.

Julia Vaughn, for example, seems to think that the courts are up to the job, especially the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the justices are as divided as the rest of us.

To take just one case, in May the court overturned North Carolina’s congressional map (for the umpteenth time) by a 5-3 margin. That might seem clear enough, but the details are much less tidy. Three of the Justices, obviously, thought that map was constitutional. Four of them found it to be unconstitutional for taking race too much into account, and one consistently finds that race should not be a factor at all. The public at large could have come up with this dog’s breakfast.

Many hope to establish a bipartisan commission or use some other bipartisan referee for redistricting purposes, as if further entrenching the power of the reigning duopoly were a good idea. This makes little sense when voters increasingly identify as independents, or as members of parties other than the Republican and Democrat.

The history of our republic has already witnessed the demise of one major party (the Whigs) and the rise of another (the Republicans). Why should we impede such natural turnover?

Speaking of other parties, who would look after the interests of the Socialists, Greens and Libertarians under a bipartisan umpire? No one would. Indeed, it is likely those other parties would suffer.

Democrats, for instance, fearing leakage to Socialists and Greens might move to suppress their influence. Tactically, they might trade favors with Republicans who would do likewise to Libertarians. Power corrupts, and it would only be a matter of when such depredations occur, not if.

The most interesting proposal I’ve seen is to grant one seat in the Indiana House of Representatives to each county. This would eliminate gerrymandering for that house and would maintain the integrity of geographic communities. It would also return some balance of power to rural counties, much as the U.S. Senate gives a voice to small states.

As with the U.S. Senate, though, such an arrangement would not provide strictly proportional representation. I find this to be a feature and not a flaw, but I doubt that many will agree.

In any event, there is no better way to maintain accountability in redistricting than to have that power in the hands of an elected branch of government. Let’s leave it there.