The Truth About Redistricting
By Rep. Bobby Moak
If you want to know why Republicans are really upset about the House redistricting plan, if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is turn to the comments of Arnie Hederman, the chairman of the Mississippi GOP.
No sooner had the House unveiled what the new districts would look like, he released this statement: “The Democrats in the Mississippi House released their redistricting proposal yesterday, an unfair plan that happens to severely limit our ability to elect a Republican Speaker in 2012.”
Despite what Governor Barbour and his allies are saying about the House plan, despite all of their misplaced comments about deviations and splits and compactness, the Republicans are upset that our plan does not gerrymander the district lines to specifically help them.
The House plan is fair to everyone, and that is what is so thoroughly unnerving to the Republicans. Our plan doesn’t tilt the balance of power one way or the other. Arnie Hederman is upset because our plan doesn’t give him a leg up before the elections.
Here’s the other piece of behind-the-scenes news about redistricting this year. There appears to be a conflict between the GOP members of the Legislature and the activists in the party organization.
The members, to their credit, want to avoid two elections, want to avoid forcing the taxpayers to pay for an additional election cycle as well as the cost of unnecessary (and expensive) redistricting litigation. The Republican activists could care less about forcing that burden on the taxpayers.
It is for this very reason that House Republican members were a part of the process. Almost all of them drew the districts they wanted. They recognize the same thing we Democrats do: in these tough budget times, the last thing the state needs to do is pay for an additional election for legislators and pay for a bunch of expensive lawyers to fight about what the district lines should look like.
But Arnie Hederman and his party operatives will do whatever it takes to elect a Republican speaker. And if it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, so be it.
I will end with one other nugget of truth that you’ll never hear from Mr. Hederman. Almost all of the rural white districts that sent Democrats to the House in 2003 and 2007 also voted for Haley Barbour during those two elections. Voters in an overwhelming majority of these districts split their vote between a Republican governor and a Democratic state representative.
What really upsets the Republican Party is that a lot of voters like the idea of a balanced state government, a government where Democrats and Republicans have to work together, where compromise is preferable to one-party rule. Because the plan approved by the House preserves that balance, because it did not gerrymander the district lines to ensure the election of a Republican speaker, the GOP is complaining.
Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” This is an effort to get the pants on what really happened in the House last week.