Gerrymandering kept Republicans in charge of US House

Teabag01-alt2-sm72-178x300by Pamela Powers Hannley

We here are Blog for Arizona have been beating the drum for election reform continuously for several weeks (12345678, 9,10, 11)– long before our state was disgraced last week with 600,000+ uncounted ballots.

In the election integrity arena, one thing that Arizona has done right– despite the Arizona Legislature– is to vote for, support, and fight for an INDEPENDENT Redistricting Commission. Redistricting every 10 years, based upon the latest US census, is mandated by the US Constitution. In most states, the state legislatures draw the maps– thus ensuring that whichever party is in power says in power for 10 years– thanks to gerrymandering.

Arizonans passed the law forming the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) before the redistricting related to the 2000 census, but Republicans successfully blocked independent redistricting in the courts for years. (This is how a purple state like Arizona came to be controlled by scoundrels like Governor Jan Brewer and former State Senate President Russell Pearce.)

After the 2010 census, a new AIRC was formed with two Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent. You'll remember that Brewer, Pearce, and the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature (also known as the forces of darkness) tried to block the AIRC at several junctures– including firing the head of the commission in late 2011 and attempting multiple legal shinanigans to stop reform… unsuccessfully. Thanks to redistricting and a strong showing by President Barack Obama and other Democrats, Arizona Democrats gained a significant number of seats in both the Arizona House and Senate. (And we were able to get rid of some real rotten apples like Pearce, Lori Klein, Ben Quayle, and Frank Antenori.)

Unfortunately, the vase majority of states have the old system in which partisan state legislatures draw the lines. Who swept into power across the US in the 2010 elections? Teapublicans. Who drew the new legislative and Congressional districts in most states? Teapublicans.

Why should you care? Because gerrymandering by Teapublicans helped those same Teapublicans retain contorl of the US House of Representatives in the 2012 elections. Despite an historic win by Obama, Democratic gains in the US Senate, and more Democratic votes in House races, gerrymandering enabled "Just say no" Teapublicans to control the US House and the budgetary purse strings. For more on this, check out this story in Think Progress: Why Americans Actually Voted for a Democratic House.

Here's a hint to election integrity activists across the country: start a grassroots movement to form independent redistricting… now.

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