An incredibly important (but overlooked) issue…

Yes, this is the most important article of the day, perhaps even of all time. Last week, most people my age were celebrating the victories of nation-wide gay marriage and Obamacare. And to be fair, these are certainly victories worth celebrating. However, the biggest SCOTUS case of all (in my humble opinion) was the case of Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The Case involves the state of Arizona trying to create an independent election commission to draw voting district lines, and the Governor trying to erase that commission. The commission was supposed to have 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats and an independent arbiter to draw the voting districts in order to have them be representative of everyone in the state. This would enable for more competitiveness in Arizona’s elections and not have the same person in the same seat until the end of time. Two articles (out of many) covered this case brilliantly and why it’s so important. Here are some excerpts from both. Let’s begin with The Daily Beast’s John Avlon:

“At stake was nothing less than the ability to fight back against the forces of polarization, paralysis, and hyper-partisanship in our politics. Out of 435 House seats, only 35 are considered competitive, and the rigged system of redistricting is to blame. It’s a process of collusion between the two parties that takes place every 10 years in state legislatures and draws the congressional district lines—a subversion of democracy where politicians pick their people rather than people picking their politicians.

The result is a screwed up incentive system where members of Congress are virtually guaranteed re-election as long as they don’t lose a low turnout partisan primary, which means they live in fear of offending the base rather than reaching across the aisle to solve problems.

Increasingly, the remedy for this corrupt status quo has been voters bypassing the state legislators with ballot referendums that create independent redistricting commissions. California has done it to great effect, dislodging 14 incumbents who decided to retire after the independent commission promised to make their re-elections less than rubber-stamped.”

Avlon goes on to mention how then Arizona Governor Jan Brewer tried to get rid of the independent commission, stating that she felt it was unfair to prioritize competitiveness over other goals and values. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that is pure “applesauce.”

Another article that really does a great job discussing how important this case is is John Opdycke of The Hill:

“Nebraska uses a nonpartisan system to elect members of their state legislature, and they have the most productive, issue-oriented and innovative legislature in the country. Witness the recent left/right coalition that came together to abolish the death penalty.

California adopted the nonpartisan system in 2010, and the impact was immediate. No more late budgets, no more partisan grandstanding (well, less of it at least) and more productive legislating. It turns out that when you create a system that gives power to the voters, not partisan interest groups, you get legislatures that can do the people’s business.

Contrast Nebraska and California to Arizona, where the partisan system is still used. Voters across the political spectrum desperately want education reform. What do they get? They get sued.”

I only wish there was a way to do this at the Federal level. Everybody who understands today’s politics knows that the reason nothing gets done is because congressional Republicans are safe from being subjected to a tough competitor. As Avlon notes in the article I linked above, “[o]ut of 435 House seats, only 35 are considered competitive, and the rigged system of redistricting is to blame.” Over the past 5-6 years, Congressional Republicans have engaged in gerrymandering districts to make the electorate 57 percent Republican voters instead of 52 or 53 percent. This all-but-guarantees the Congressional Representative safe from a competitive election and in turn gets him/her elected to Congress in perpetuity. It emboldens partisanship and makes politicians on both sides of the aisle more calcified, more trenchant, and less open to compromise. And what do we the people get in return? A do-nothing Congress that only gets rewarded by voters on Election Day. We deserve better than this. Our politicians should be rewarded for compromise, and not be afraid of being punished by The Conservative Mafia (i.e. groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action, not to mention talk radio hosts).

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