Weighing in on this topic lately was former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who told a law symposium hosted by the UGA Law School in Athens that Congress should mandate the drawing of congressional districts by independent commissions instead of state legislatures, the Daily Report informs.
“I will tell you we’ve got to do something because we’re the laughing stock” of the world, Barnes said, with reference to the latest partial shutdown of the federal government. “Something has to be done to equalize these districts or there won’t be change in Congress. There are just a few seats in play.”
The former governor said Democratic gerrymandering of Georgia legislative districts under his watch in 2001 “was not my finest hour.” The U.S. Supreme Court came to the same conclusion at the time and ordered a lower court to fix the maps, and the court obliged, declaring them “baldly unconstitutional” in violation of the one person, one vote rule. Barnes also said gerrymandering has not been “the finest hour of those who came after me,” meaning Republicans.
However, he pointed out that his successor, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue who defeated Barnes in 2002, has endorsed the idea of assigning an independent body the task of redrawing districts. Perdue’s proposal in February 2007 called for a seven-member council appointed by the governor, the Democratic and Republican leaders in House and Senate and the council itself. The Daily Report said Perdue’s former spokesman, Bert Brantley, had tweeted that the former governor still favors the commission plan to cut down on partisanship and Perdue often speaks of “the dangers of extreme districts.”
Barnes’ comments came in response to a question by Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Billy Ray II, a former GOP state senator who, the Daily Report said, “referred to a recent news report on the rise of majority party districts and their contribution to government gridlock.”
The news report was not identified but they are all over the Internet, from the New York Times to a typical dailykos.com left-wing screed: “GOP Gerrymandering is a clear and present danger to America. It is destroying the fabric of the American society. It is mostly responsible for a failing middle class, a faltering economy and hate. The party that has gerrymandered majority representation out of a minority has used race, class and economic deception to achieve its goals.” Media in other countries, including our neighbor Canada take a similar line.
But in truth, gerrymandering is not the root of all evil in our country, in the view some distinguished scholars whose analysis offers food for thought. That will be examined in Friday’s column.