A Whole New Ballgame for Congress

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned political chaos in state legislatures around the country. The Justices finally issued their decision in the Texas redistricting case and the result could mean revolving Congressional districts that change after every election depending upon the political power of the majority party in any state at any given time. In other words, what happened in Texas-- a raw power grab by the party in power to protect itself from future challenges-- could now become the rule and not the Tom-Delay-inspired exception.

Some Democrats may claim a partial victory because the Court's majority did throw out one particular contorted Congressional district which did not recognize fairly the rights of Hispanic voters. But the GOP at least for now is the big winner of the war over redistricting. I will have much more on the ruling after I have had the chance to read the entire decision. In the meantime, we will have to wait until tomorrow for a decision in the other big case that is left-- the case involving the rights of detainees down in Guantanamo Bay.

More later.

By Andrew Cohen |  June 28, 2006; 10:37 AM ET
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"In other words, what happened in Texas-- a raw power grab by the party in power to protect itself from future challenges"

All redistricting is ALWAYS a "raw power grab". The only difference is that Republicans are now doing what Democrats have always done in the past - using the redistricting process to their partisan advantage. Shoe/other foot, and all that...

Posted by: Joe S. | June 28, 2006 11:13 AM

Redistricting has, in the past, not necessarily been an inherent "raw power grab," in the sense that it only happened every 10 years, and the composition of any given state legislature may not have changed enough over that decade to make a significant difference in the redistricting process. (I will grant the point that the process of redistricting is inherently political, and merely because a statehouse hasn't changed hands in a decade didn't mean that politics didn't enter into the equation.)

The significance of the Supreme Court decision is that now, any time a state legislature changes hands, a redistricting can then take place. Under the previous system, there would generally be another election cycle or two, at least, before the redistricting rolled around, during which theoretically the political balance could shift back.

Posted by: Dave | June 28, 2006 11:34 AM

What a complete mess. The Supreme Court's ruling will continue to provide plenty of ammunition to further divide an already overly-polarized nation. The majority party will most certainly take advantage of this ruling to rig districts in their favor. As if we didn't have enough of a problem unseating entrenched incumbants. Very disturbing.

John Teague,
Greensboro, NC

Posted by: J. Teague | June 28, 2006 12:01 PM

Ironically the contorted Congressional district is one held by Representative Loyd Doggett (D-Austin). His ouster was one of the main goals of the redistricting. Could be that he will finally get his wish.

Posted by: Brad | June 28, 2006 12:01 PM

Let's see now, the GOP is allowed to redistrict because it's in power. Oh, boo-hoo! The Democrats did that for generations to exclude the GOP from power. I say BRING it on Supreme Court! It's whining like this that makes Texas politics so darn much fun!

Posted by: Kent In Texas | June 28, 2006 12:02 PM

Doesn't this decision violate the "one man, one vote" ruling used to appoint Bush to the Presidency?

Posted by: Jack | June 28, 2006 12:03 PM

"...what happened in Texas-- a raw power grab by the party in power to protect itself from future challenges"

This is puerile nonsense, a willfully ignorant representation of the facts. After the 2000 census, Republicans were blocked from redistricting by Democrats in the state legislature, forcing the issue to a court, where a judge left most of 1990 Democrat gerrymander in place, merely carving out an isolated change.

Gerrymandering was fine for the last 100 years when Democrats had power. But when the Republicans took power for the FIRST TIME, what was good for the goose was not good for the g(errym)ander. Despite having every statewide office held by Republicans, and two Republican senators, in a state clearly Republican, the Congressional delegation was Democrat - merely because the 1990 gerrymander was still in place.

Do some research next time before prattling on about "power grabs" - a clear look at the facts showed that the Texas redistrict was absolutely fair, save for one Voting Rights concern the SC pointed out. Which is what they are there for.

Posted by: MEC2 in Texas | June 28, 2006 12:10 PM

Before the 'raw power grab' total U.S. House Rep voting was 60% GOP, 40% Dem but the house seats were divided 50%-50%. Now, the GOP's seats are 60% of Texas's total, in line with the overall voting. Texas now has representive government.

Posted by: Norman Berger | June 28, 2006 12:12 PM

Yeah I think that redistricting every 6 months is a good idea. Apparently the morons on the Supreme Court think its a great idea!

Posted by: gene buffington | June 28, 2006 12:22 PM

We can talk about who did what, when or we can talk about what to do about it. It is clearly wrong to violate the will of the people through parliamentary tactic like gerrymandering. Congressional districts should be created without ANY political component. Maybe more than one representative per oversized district, maybe computer-generated districts based purly on population, I'm sure there are lots of good solutions.

Posted by: iam | June 28, 2006 12:53 PM

Yeah. It's ridiculous how unrepresentative American politics really is. Gerrymandering is the worst example of America as oligopoly, as it is a blatant attempt by the ruling party (whichever it is) to keep itself in power. Instead of wasting time trying to make sure gay people can't do the same things as heterosexuals, our congressmen should be trying to pass constituional amendments to end gerrymandering and the electoral system.

Posted by: TAB | June 28, 2006 01:21 PM

With all due respect Gene, it isn't the Court's responsibility to shape policy, it's to interpret the law.

Posted by: Domer in Texas | June 28, 2006 01:24 PM

Why cant there be a non-partisan non-elected group that sets districts impartially. I don't buy the "Dems did it for years" justification for republicans doing it now. Could a law change that or would it be unconstitutional?


Posted by: Alexa | June 28, 2006 01:26 PM

Don't forget that the 'new' republicans in Texas are pretty much the same as the 'old' democrats. Basically they began to switch parties after Johnson signed the Civil Rights act in 1964. So they more or less are a continuation of the same legacy. ( I know it's more complicated than that but that's basically what happened ).

Posted by: Austinite | June 28, 2006 01:28 PM

It still amazes me (it's difficult to comprehend how people have become sheep), the hypocrisy of the right-wing zealots posting here.
They just never get that the one-party government they love so much, will eventually change to the *other* party. It is then, that they'll realize the damage this present government has done to this country.

Will you be happy when the present dictatorial powers Bush believes he has, is in the hands of a Democrat?
All that you sheep are defending now, will come back in your face.
Maybe then you'll get it... nah...

Posted by: jon | June 28, 2006 01:38 PM

Potential vs. Real "political chaos"
Has anyone here (there, or anywhere) done a study of how often and in what states the legislature and governor have changed hands sufficiently to change this potential chaos to real chaos? Keep in mind election years after the census don't count as chaos, because the census triggers those redistricted lines anyway. You can't just say, "well the Senate changed" or "the House has changed" so therefore redistricting is going to occur. It can happen. It did happen in Texas. It caused chaos for no one. It requires a legislative change that allows for it, a legislature that has the will and desire to do it and a governor that won't veto a new plan. However the idea that it will happen everywhere, all of the time, and therefore cause chaos is ludicrous.

Posted by: Dub | June 28, 2006 01:43 PM

While I would not argue that it may have been time for redistricting in Texas, the way in which it was handled by the corrupt Texas republican party was immoral, if not illegal (and one district was proven to be unconstitutional). You may remember a couple of years back when all of the Texas democratic representatives fled the state to keep Tom Delay and his cronies from ensuring a change of power in Washington.
It's a sad day...

Posted by: Al Thomas | June 28, 2006 01:50 PM

What this decision shows is that we need a constitutional amendment that allows each state to redistrict only once every 10 years (after the constitutionally mandated census)and that the redisticting be carried out by a non-partisan (or bipartisan or multi-partisan (take your pick)) commission. With the computer programs now used to create the House districts, the type of gerrymandering used in Texas will only get worse and worse as its repeated elsewhere. Also, it's making most of the districts into permanent "safe seats" whose office holders are chosen in the party primary, where the most extreme left or right members of each party disproportionately vote, leaving us with a polarized Congress whose members can keep their seats as long as they want to. What a mess! This us not what the founding fathers envisioned when they created the "people's House".

Posted by: LER | June 28, 2006 02:03 PM

This is idiotic. Enough with the 'cuz you did it we'll do it.' This is will just waste time getting other things solved and increase the already irritating partisanship. Voting is confusing enough for everyone, now we have to deal with changing disticts ever 2-4 years?! We need a better system for making districts...maybe a computer program that runs demographic information?

Posted by: Kevin | June 28, 2006 02:29 PM

Democrats invented "redistricting" to keep themselves in their corrupt power for 40 years. Mayor Daley, vote rigging, voter fraud, "hanging chads" (hilarious if it wasn't such a disgrace from the sour grapes party), Dem's consistently registering dead people. Dem's doing all they can to try to give felons the right to vote, which is 100% out of sync with Mainstream America. Left Wing Extremist Moonbats (Rat party) are the masters of all that is nefarious when it comes to denying TRUE voter rights in this nation. Yet not one Democrat will own up to it or admit it. Instead, they expect America to simply ignore their double standards and cry-baby whining.

If Dems were in power they would be slapping everyone else down who doesn't agree with them just like their proven track record of 40 years. And we all know it.

Don't you Dem's have some bad guys like Osama to go offer aid, comfort and support to?

Posted by: GoesAroundComesAround | June 28, 2006 02:57 PM

Remember term limits? There's a Republican boat that left shore a long time ago...

Posted by: CT | June 28, 2006 03:29 PM

I think the impact depends on how often the legistlatures choose to exercise that power.

Personally, I feel that redistricting on a decade basis represents a slow enough change to reflect true population shifts. Changing any faster, and I think we risk framenting the ability of a representative to really represent his/her people. How can one who is elected for two terms stand a chance of really representing a constituency, if that group could change from election to election?

I also really think that I'd rather have my representative trying to solve other problems that figuring out a new map. This political fighting between the parties over a map is annoying enough once every ten years.

Posted by: Ed | June 28, 2006 04:57 PM

This ruling especially unfortunate for the American electorate because of an emerging factor - the development of expanding databases of personal info compiled on all of us. Consequently, in reality, we are just now getting acquainted with a situation where elected officials increasingly SELECT US in order to further bolster incumbency.

A lovely portrait of 21st century American democracy - which is looking increasingly like a failed experiment.

Posted by: NoCrystalBallNEEDED | June 28, 2006 05:26 PM

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