Beyond the Beltway: Nonpartisan Redistricting

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Feb. 5, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: There’s a royal battle brewing in California as we go Beyond the Beltway.

At issue, the Golden States’ legislative and congressional districts. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) wants to take the state legislature out of the map-making process and put a nonpartisan panel of retired judges in its place. Schwarzenegger says it’ll make the legislature more moderate and less polarized. I would say, and more representative, too. Democrats say it’s a blatant power grab.

Either way, this is a fight that could have national implications.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, as I’ve said many times before, Arnold Schwarzenegger is my kind of Republican, and this is the best idea I can think, I can think of, I’m sorry. He will —he would raise taxes if he needed to. Yes, he would.

BARNES: No, he wouldn’t.

KONDRACKE: Not in California (search ) not under present circumstances, but if he needed to in order to establish some vital project, he would.

BARNES: So he doesn’t need to.


KONDRACKE: Anyway, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we’re talking about is, this is the single best device I can think of, or anybody’s thought of, for in, engendering some moderation in American politics. And that is to, to make legislative districts, whether congressional or state legislative districts, more competitive, so that the two parties have to fight for the other side’s voters instead of only appealing to their own voters, and, and especially the hot dogs in their own party.

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: This is, you know, every state that has a referendum in its constitution, like California, ought to be following California’s example, as Arizona (search ) actually did previously.

BARNES: Yes. Then Iowa has a system that’s a nonpartisan system for creating the congressional and state legislative districts, and then it works very well, and it creates political competition or ensures that there’s competition between the parties and not just inside the parties.

Now, I’m not citing you on this, Mort, but a lot of liberal commentators have jumped on the bandwagon of this sort of nonpartisan redistricting, now that Republicans are the majority party in America. They want it to upset the Republican majority.

The truth is, though, there are real reasons for doing this. In California, I think in, in 2004 there, California has something like 53 congressional districts. Not one of them was competitive. I live in Virginia, where there are 11 districts. Not one of them was competitive.

States are horribly, and this would deal with both types of gerrymandering, the kind where the parties get together, which they did in California and Illinois and New York and other states, and create districts, you know, I’ll give this to the Democrats and we’ll take this for the Republicans, or where one party just gerrymanders it, as in Georgia, and as in Texas.

All parties have done that, but I’m for this new system, that’s for sure.


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