No On Race, Yes On Political Party; Criteria Set For Court Ordered Redistricting

Aug 11, 2017
Originally published on August 11, 2017 3:30 pm

When you are carving up the state into new political districts, you don't do it willy-nilly. Especially when you have 28 state legislative seats ruled illegal racial gerrymanders and a federal court watching what you do.

Thursday, we learned just what criteria state lawmakers are going to use in this court ordered round of redistricting.

Since Republicans hold majorities in both the state House and Senate, they also hold the majority on the redistricting committee.

"Just to recap, the committee adopted nine criteria for redistricting," said committee co-chair Ralph Hise, "And those will be given to the drawer of the map."

That's a reference to a Republican hired to help the majority party draw favorable new lines. More on that in a moment.

But firs, let's go through those criteria.

The new districts should be compact, contiguous and not break county lines. These are required by law but if you've ever looked at a political map, you know there are plenty of exceptions.

Next, each House seat should represent the same number of voters, give or take 5 percent. Each Senate seat should do the same.

These are the basic steps in drawing a map. But these days, with big data and loads of available information to micro-target voters, these might as well be considered baby steps.

And here come the controversial criteria. Republicans are allowing municipalities and precincts to be split up in order to gain a partisan advantage. In other words, political gerrymandering to help keep the Republican supermajorities in the state House and Senate intact.

It's legal to do but that may change when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments over the practice in their next session.

These criteria all came from Republicans. Democrats tried to add their own but they were all voted down.

There is one criterion to go. Republican lawmakers say they will not consider the race of a voter when drawing these new maps. Not a surprise when illegal racial gerrymandering is what triggered this new round of redistricting in the first place.

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