The Supreme Court’s decision to allow a redistricting commission set up by Arizona voters holds the potential of reducing the rampant gerrymandering that has virtually guaranteed a Republican-controlled U.S. House until at least 2022. And that would be a good thing, since partisan redistricting in a half-dozen states has skewed the makeup of the House of Representatives, which James Madison said was supposed to display “fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people.” But it probably won’t happen. The reason: It’s almost impossible to take politics out of the process by which legislatures re-draw legislative and congressional district lines after every census to reflect population changes. Every unequal redistricting has essentially resulted from an election.
Most of today’s anomalies stem from Republican 2010 successes in electing the legislators who redrew lines in key states after that year’s census. They produced these GOP House majorities in states that voted Democratic in most recent presidential elections: Florida, 17-10; Michigan, 9-5; North Carolina, 10-3; Ohio, 12-4; Pennsylvania, 13-5; Virginia, 8-3; Wisconsin, 5-3.
An even division of seats in those states would have reduced the current GOP margin by two-thirds and given the Democrats the House in 2012, when they received a majority of congressional votes.
But Republicans, who spent all but four years in the House minority from 1931 to 1995, are unlikely to cede power without a fight.