日期:2011-05-09 10:09


Redistricting rows

Not so easy

Republican hopes of snagging extra seats following last year’s census look doomed to disappointment

May 5th 2011 | AUSTIN, TEXAS | from the print edition

..REDISTRICTING, so the old saying goes, is when politicians get to choose their voters. Every ten years, following the national census, each state must redraw the constituency boundaries for both its members of Congress and its state legislators. In most states, the party in power controls both those processes, either directly through the state legislature or indirectly through the appointment of members to commissions charged with the job.


The whole business has been riven with conflicts of interest for at least two centuries. This time around, though, Republicans are in charge in far more states than Democrats, so should be able to weight the political odds in their favour for the next decade. But that is proving trickier than normal, for a variety of reasons.


Take Texas. Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature, so can draw new maps without interference from Democrats. That power is all the more coveted since Texas will receive four new seats in the House of Representatives at the next election, thanks to the rapid growth of its population over the past decade. Partisan Republicans would like all four districts drawn with Republican majorities. But as Sherri Greenberg of the University of Texas at Austin points out, even in Texas, there are not enough Republicans to create four secure new Republican districts.

以德克萨斯州为例。共和党掌管政府,又控制了两大州立法内庭,所以共和党能够不受民主党干扰自行确定新的选区图。由于德州人口在这十年内增长迅速,下次选举将在众议院新增四个席位,所以共和党的这项权利可以说是无人不垂涎。但德州大学的雪莉·格林伯格(Sherri Greenberg)指出,就算在德克萨斯州,也没有足够的共和党成员以新建四个稳定的共和党选区。

That is partly because Republicans won almost every marginal seat in the state at the last election, leaving themselves already thinly spread. Democrats now hold just nine of Texas’s 32 House seats. “The elections accomplished what we were afraid they were going to try to accomplish by gerrymandering,” says Mike Villarreal, the most senior Democrat on the redistricting committee in the state House of Representatives. That outcome, in turn, was underpinned by a previous Republican gerrymander. In 2003, shortly after taking control of the state legislature for the first time in over a century, Republicans redrew the congressional map in a way that cost the Democrats six seats at the subsequent election, and more since. That leaves Republicans with few plausible targets in the Democratic congressional delegation.

这样的情形,在一定程度上是由于共和党在上次选举中几乎赢得了所有的边际席位,所以他们的分布已经很稀疏。在德克萨斯州总共32个席位中,民主党只有9个席位。州议院选区重划委员会最资深的民主党人员麦克·维拉里尔(Mike Villarreal)说,“选举印证了我们所担心的事,他们真的通过不公正地划分选区赢了我们。”那次选举的结果,正是之前共和党进行不公正选区划分的结果。2003年,共和党一百多年来第一次坐镇州立法机关,还没过多久,便通过选区重划分让民主党损失了六个席位,并且让它以后继续损失席位。最后,共和党针对民主党国会代表的可行目标就非常少了。

To make matters trickier for the Republicans, some 90% of the growth in the state’s population over the past decade has come from minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. Indeed, minorities are now in the majority in Texas, with Hispanics alone accounting for about 38% of the population—although their share of legal residents of voting age is smaller. The racial divide in Texas politics is quite stark: there are only two state House seats with a white majority represented by Democrats, a legislator points out, and only three minority seats represented by Republicans.


.A latter-day Governor Gerry might respond by distributing Hispanic voters across all seats to minimise their influence. But that is a risky tactic in two respects. First, the state’s demographics are changing fast enough that an overly ambitious partisan gerrymander is likely to come unstuck during its ten-year lifespan. The last map the Republicans drew secured them a comfortable majority of 88 of the 150 seats in the state House in 2002, but only 76 in 2008. Republicans involved in redistricting this time around say they cannot be too aggressive if their handiwork is to have any hope of surviving.


Moreover, the Voting Rights Act, originally intended to prevent the disenfranchisement of black voters in the South, makes it difficult to marginalise minority voters.It enjoins states to create districts dominated by minorities where feasible, and bars them from reducing minorities’ overall electoral clout.Trey Martinez Fischer, who heads the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House, says his group will sue if the Republicans produce a congressional map with fewer than two new Hispanic districts.The fact that Republicans just pushed through a redistricting plan for the Texas House of Representatives that fell far short of the five new Hispanic seats he was demanding will also probably spark lawsuits. “Redistricting in Texas is a two-step,” he says, “first in the legislature, then in the courthouse.”

此外,最初为保护南方黑人选举权设立的《选举权法》,防止了对少数民族选民的边缘化。 该法案命令各州在可行的地区,为少数民族聚居地区专门设立选区,禁止各州通过任何手段削弱少数民族选民的总体力量。据德克萨斯州州议院美籍墨西哥裔立法团队的领袖特雷·马丁内斯·费舍尔(Trey Martinez Fischer)说,如果共和党划分的新选区地图没有新设两个以上的拉美裔选区,美籍墨西哥裔立法团队将提起诉讼。共和党人刚提出新的德州议会代表选区计划,该计划远远没有满足费舍尔五个新的拉美裔位置的要求,对此,他可能也会提起诉讼。费舍尔说,“对德州进行选区划分要分两步走,第一步是立法机构,第二步是法院。”

Democrats are especially enthusiastic about  legal challenges  to redistricting plans this year, since the federal government, which has considerable leeway to interpret and enforce the Voting Rights Act, is in Democratic hands. (Republican administrations, as it happens, have presided over all previous redistricting cycles since the act was passed in 1965, with a Republican in the White House in 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001.) Some Texan Republicans are already musing about bypassing the Department of Justice, and obtaining the necessary approval of their electoral maps from a federal court instead. But most seem to think the best defence against a legal assault is to produce a relatively timid redistricting plan in the first place.


That suits most incumbents just fine. While they would be happy in principle to see their party’s ranks swell, they are seldom willing to help by allowing their own seats to become less secure. Instead, Republican congressmen and state representatives in Texas seem eager to shore up their own districts by jettisoning minority neighbourhoods, university towns and other left-leaning voters. That is understandable: given the scale of the Republican landslide in Texas last year, simply retaining all the existing Republican seats in next year’s elections will be a struggle, however the maps are drawn.


All across the country, Republicans are afflicted by similar problems. There are some bright spots for them, such as North Carolina, where the newly Republican legislature is likely to be able to flip a few Democratic seats in Congress by rejigging the boundaries. But there are also trickier prospects, such as Illinois, where Democrats will probably succeed in undermining several freshmen Republicans. In Florida, perhaps the most glaring Republican gerrymander of the previous cycle, a new law on redistricting is likely to crimp the state legislators’ most partisan impulses.


All told, both Democrats and Republicans agree, redistricting for Congress is unlikely to alter the balance much, with Republicans focusing for the most part on consolidating the gains they made at the last election. Despite the Republicans’ notional domination of the process, there will be few direct Democratic casualties. That will only be scant consolation to the Democrats, however, who will still face the daunting task of dislodging a mighty Republican majority of 49 in the House of Representatives.


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  • landsliden. 山崩 n. (竞选中)压倒多数的选票
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