CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Columns

January 27, 2013

COMMENTARY: Stop letting political parties draw election maps

WASHINGTON — Both Republicans and Democrats regularly exhibit such greed and dishonesty in manipulating electoral maps that a Columbia University expert who studies the practice likened his work to that of an anthropologist who observes cannibals.

"I have to replace normal human reactions of disgust and revulsion with fascination and curiosity. It's the only way I can cope," said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor who's helped draw election lines in Maryland and other states.

Virginia Republicans are the latest offenders in the sorry saga of politicians seeking to contort the voting process to help their party, and they are going for it in a big way.

First, they shoved a bill through the state Senate that would significantly gerrymander voting jurisdictions for that chamber's members to benefit the GOP. They did so without hearings in a year when the state constitution suggests that they have no business making such changes.

Some Republican legislators in Virginia have also pushed a separate measure to rejigger how the state's presidential tally is counted. Under their bill, President Barack Obama would have received only four of Virginia's 13 electoral votes last year, even though he beat Mitt Romney by nearly 150,000 votes in the popular count.

The GOP efforts in Richmond should appall anyone who cares about democracy and fairness. Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, has done the right thing by saying he opposes the Electoral College chicanery, which now seems unlikely to pass. The governor should make clear he'd veto the Senate plan, as well, if it reaches his desk.

Still, let's be objective. The Democrats do it, too. The GOP has done it more in the current census cycle nationwide, because it controls more state governments. But both parties are guilty.

For instance, Maryland Democrats fashioned one of the nation's most grotesque U.S. congressional district maps to squeeze a Republican out of office last year in the 6th District in the state's western half.

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