Wednesday, October 12, 2011

End of Redistricting Mess? Maybe, But Not How Ralston Thinks.

Yesterday, I moaned about the very thin "nonpartisan" veneer draping Nevada's redistricting process. Today, Jon Ralston is wishing and hoping and praying for that very thin veneer to just fall off already.

Chairman Tom Sheets at one point urged Democratic and Republican lawyers to “make us irrelevant” by crafting a deal, which really would be special. But that seemed evanescent as the two days of hearings came to an end, especially with Gov. Brian Sandoval telling the capital press corps: “I have confidence in the judicial process.”

If I thought Sandoval was being serious — as opposed to politically correct — I’d be worried. But I still believe he would call the Gang of 63 back in a nanosecond if they reached an agreement — but not a nanosecond sooner.

What would be least special of all is seeing the lawmakers return to Carson City without an accord, thus creating chaos and obnoxiousness I had hoped we left behind in the spring. I’d rather be doing stand-up outside the Legislative Building in February than have to return to the capital to watch the partisan antics redux.

Sandoval’s pose, though, is perfectly in sync with everyone else involved in this travesty as constitutional provisions are flouted and laws twisted by poseurs — paid and otherwise. At least attorneys for the Democrats and Republicans are being compensated to do what they have been doing, which is to shamelessly pander to a burgeoning Hispanic minority as if they care — truly, madly, deeply — about its aspirations and needs.

For the political parties, this is about one thing and one thing only: Power. All of the rest is trappings, window dressing, bait-and-switch.

On that last point, Ralston is totally correct. This process typically IS all about power, as the rest is just the usual bait-and-switch. However, redistricting doesn't have to be this way. All we have to do is look to our next door neighbors for good inspiration.

Under Arizona's Prop 106, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) is legally required to start from scratch every ten years, take into account proper communities of interest and potential competitiveness, and protect voters' right to choose their legislators rather than incumbents' wishes for "ideal voters". Even though its process is far from perfect, Arizona's IRC nonetheless offers the hope of drawing districts that better reflect the state's population, regardless of incumbents' demands and party politics on steroids.

Under California's Props 11 & 20, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) is also legally required to start from scratch every ten years, and that body is supposed to take into account proper communities of interest and municipal boundaries rather than incumbents' wishes or political party demands. And regarding the latter, California Republicans are so furious about (the lack of) it that they're filing a ridiculous law suit to overturn the new districts. And while this new process in California may lead to unintended consequences there, such as the stripping of seniority and experience in DC and Sacramento, California's CRC also provides many new opportunities for voters to retake control over elections.

So is independent redistricting perfect? Nope, just look at what's happening next door. But by the same token, we can also look next door and see an overall better functioning process that gives voters more control than the usual powers that be. And that would be quite the "special" departure from the usual politics that surrounds redistricting here in Nevada.

I honestly don't know if the current judiciary mess or retrying the Legislature is the better path to take for this current round of redistricting here. But moving forward, we really need to reexamine our State Constitution (which currently requires the Legislature to redraw its own districts and Congressional Districts) and ask if we really want to endure this kind of nonsense ten years from now.

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