The biggest racket in American politics is the process by which legislative district lines are decided. In most states, the party that controls the legislature also draws the map. And in a process known as “gerrymandering”, that party typically rigs the districts to make sure its candidates prosper while rival candidates lose. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of producing congressional districts, like the one on the right in Massachusetts in 1812, so contorted that they have earned the names “Salamander”, “Hanging Claw” and “The Pinwheel of Death”.
In 2000, voters in Arizona passed a ballot measure designed to address this inversion of democracy head on. They took the process of drawing district lines out of the hands of their state legislators and handed it to a less partisan body, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, hoping to end “the practice of gerrymandering and improv[e] voter and candidate participation in elections”.
After the censuses of 2000 and 2010, the commission drew up new districts. But in 2012 Republicans in the Arizona legislature grew wistful for their power of yore. They sued, claiming the ballot initiative conflicted with the federal constitution’s provision that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof”.
Full Article: One for the people | The Economist.