Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What the redistricting order means

The reactions to yesterday's ruling were an amazing display of human conditioning run amuck. Republicans and right-wingers in the blogosphere, had already processed the Court's "inclination order", and were expecting what they believed to be the worst case scenario. When that didn't happen, they thought that this was something less than a win for Democrats.

Here's what really happened:

Gov. Barbour and the MSGOP argued that the Court should draw its own plan, which could have been disastrous to Democrats in the House. At first, it appeared that their plan would be to ask to run under the old lines, and then seek a second election next year. That appears to be their fall back position this morning, given Gov. Barbour's comment regarding a second election. A reading of the Court's opinion, however, doesn't indicate that a second election is likely. In this respect and many others, this is a far, far different ruling than Watkins v. Mabus.

Many Democrats and more than a handful of Republicans would have loved to have seen the Joint Committee plans enacted. (The Joint Committee plans were incumbent protection plans, after all.) That was nothing but an unlikely dream scenario prior to the Court handing down its "inclination order" on April 28th. After April 28th, though, it seemed as if the dream scenario was about to be made real. However, yesterday the Court didn't follow its inclination and instead chose to permit elections under the current lines. That's not exactly a "loss" for a party that's won a majority of House seats under these lines twice already, and was beating back an effort by the Governor and MSGOP to have the federal courts draw the lines. By the way, Democrats won a majority of House seats in two years when Haley Barbour was at the top of the Republican ticket.

Now, I'm not a fan of the damage running under the old lines will do to the "one man, one vote" legal principle. But consider the raw politics at play here: Which districts are now "packed" as a result of this ruling? Rural, Democrat-leaning districts or suburban, Republican-leaning districts?

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