Democrats are complaining because Republican state legislatures are redrawing Congressional districts. The WaPo article acts as if this is some new strategy:
"This is a political strategy we haven't seen before," said Tim Storey, redistricting analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "People who study this area can't find any case in the last 100 years of mid-decade redistricting without a court order."Ah, but the key word here is "mid-decade". It's accepted practice to gerrymander districts after the decennial census, and Democrats are mainly peeved because they're out of power and the Republicans want to redistrict now rather than wait another 7 years.
In an era in which most congressional districts are drawn to guarantee safe seats for one party or the other, Colorado bucked the trend after the 2000 Census. The state's new 7th Congressional District was designed to be a political tossup, with one-third of the voters Republican, one-third Democratic and one-third unaffiliated.Yippie, a close House race. And that means what? No one says, but it's taken for granted that it's a good thing.
Sure enough, the suburban Denver district produced the closest House race in the nation last fall. After several recounts, Republican Bob Beauprez won the seat by 122 votes out of 162,938 cast.
The whole concept of gerrymandering by state legislatures is fascinating to me. One the one hand, legislatures always draw horribly contorted district borders that are specifically designed to dilute their opponents' voters and yield close races that are nevertheless guaranteed wins. It's a rather delicate balancing act -- if you win but the vote isn't close, then you wasted too many of your own voters, but if you lose then the result is even worse. It seems very undemocratic on the surface, until you remember that the state legislature is itself a democratically elected body. I'm not sure where that leaves us.
Consider that before the 17th Amendment, state legislatures selected Senators for their state; members of the House of Representatives were elected directly by the people, but Senators were not. However, with the 17th Amendment and the current state of gerrymandering, the situation has almost reversed itself. State borders cannot be modified, and so Senators are elected directly by the people they represent, while the state legislature fiddles with the Congressional districts and in effect selects the party of the Representative that holds each seat.