Citizens of New York have lobbied for years to take redistricting out of the hands of the big people (i.e., legislators) and give it to the little guys (i.e., not legislators). Sort of like Kid Nation, but without the blurry child labor regulations. Opposing this transfer in power, William Parment claims that the current system is preferable to an independent commission (not comprised of legislators) drawing state legislative and Congressional lines, in part because legislators are more accountable to their constituents. This immediately reminded me of my Dad's rationale that my palate was not at the level needed to truly enjoy those macadamia nuts, and therefore, no cookie for me. Both lines of reasoning (my dad's less sound) mask the motivations of self-interested persons to maintain their grip on power (or higher quality baked goods).
Last year, Justin Levitt and I testified on
Parment is right that people need to have their voices heard, and that incumbency, by itself, is not “an evil”. But he’s wrong to suggest that legislative control of redistricting does anything to benefit “the people”. Incumbency is an evil in a system where legislators can manipulate lines to ensure themselves of re-election, thereby rendering elections pointless. Further, I’m skeptical that installing a commission of non-interested persons from across the state with numerous opportunities for public input would be any less effective than legislative control of redistricting at channeling the will of the people, especially since even lawmakers with the purest of motives have tremendous incentives to ignore the public good and create a district that they can win in. Indeed, it’s more likely that voters’ wishes are conflated (however accidentally) with the electoral ambitions of a given legislator, as my Grandma's interest in not having her car totaled by a six-year old was conflated with her "interest" in my "safety". Ok, maybe she was right about that one.
Nonetheless, this opposition seems more like protecting one's cookies than protecting one's car. Like sound parenting, representative democracy is among our country’s greatest institutions, but we shouldn’t pretend that that pristine ideal does anything to influence the ugly reality that is