WASHINGTON – Athens-then-Savannah-then-Augusta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow knows plenty about partisan redistricting. Twice, he has been drawn out of his district by Republicans eager to unseat him. But he moved into the new lines and kept on winning. In November he secured his fifth term.
Today Barrow introduced a bill that he hopes will allow more moderates like him to survive: HR 223 would take redistricting out of the hands of state Legislatures and put it into the hands of nonpartisan commissions. The commission would solicit public comment on the plan, which would have to be approved by the courts.
The bill is named for John Tanner, a former Blue Dog Democratic Rep. from Tennessee who retired before the 2010 elections.
California implemented the nonpartisan system in the most recent redistricting, but ProPublica reported how Democrats infiltrated the system and used it to their gain. In an interview during an October campaign visit to Swainsboro, Barrow discussed redistricting and said California is not a good example because it is so Democrat-heavy. Meanwhile “Ohio and Florida [districts] are wildly out of sync with the center of gravity in those states because of partisan gerrymandering.”
Barack Obama won both states last year, but the Ohio U.S. House delegation has 12 Republicans to four Democrats, while Florida has a 17-10 Republican lean.
Barrow also said redistricting has helped generate today’s broken Congress:
There is a very definite cure for what ails Congress, and that’s to take the technology that the parties are using to radicalize the primary nominating process all over the country and turn that technology in on itself and start drawing districts that represent the states these districts are carved out of. If we did that, if that was the standard, we would have a Congress with a bunch of members like we had in the 70s and 80s, much more capable of getting the job done.
This theory does not account for the current hyperpartisan U.S. Senate, but we can leave that for another day.
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider