The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Midterm re-elections

With the buzz surrounding several members of Congress being connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who recently pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and fraud, there has been talk on how it will affect the makeup of the next Congress.

Primary season is just around the corner, and the 2006 midterm elections are quickly coming upon us. The pundits are already asking the questions.

Will the Democrats be able to capitalize on the lobbying scandal, picking up seats or even taking control of the House?

Or, will the Republicans weather the storm and even gain additional seats to their majority?

The odds are, we will not see much movement in terms of party makeup in the House of Representatives, mainly because of the horrible state of boundaries in most congressional districts.

If the average person looks at map of congressional districts in most states, they can tell right off that the boundaries have been manipulated intentionally.

We are all familiar here in Texas by now with the redistricting battle from a few years ago, but gerrymandering is not restricted to just Texas.

One of the most bizarre-shaped districts in the country is the 4th Congressional District of Illinois, in the Chicago area, which is nicknamed “the earmuff,” since it connects two separate neighborhoods by thinly tracing a part of an interstate highway.

In congressional districts that have been badly gerrymandered due in large part by incumbents who wish to stay re-elected and bipartisan redistricting commissions coming to a stalemate, most congressional races have become boring and the outcomes predictable.

This has also led the parties to not even bother running candidates in districts they know they cannot win.

One of the most recent ridiculous occurrences of this was in California for the 2004 election.

In 2000, the two major parties together redrew the boundaries for districts at both the congressional and state legislature level. When the 2004 elections came, not a single seat in the California State Legislature or California Congressional Delegation changed parties.

This is not an incident of voters choosing their lawmakers, but clearly one of lawmakers choosing their voters.

The results in the congressional races were so skewed, only three of the 53 districts in the state were victories that were less than a majority of 60 percent.

There have been calls for such practices to end in the state. Unfortunately, a proposal by Gov. Schwarzenegger to possibly end this phenomenon by having retired judges oversee the redistricting process was soundly defeated last November, with almost 60 percent of the voters saying no.

The passage of such a reform would have prompted other states to enact similar legislation.

To say that this is just a problem that comes along with having a single-member district system is not true.

The single-member district system, although still heavily criticized by smaller parties, operates in several places smoothly without strange-looking or gerrymandered districts, such as in the United Kingdom and Canada.

There, independent government agencies oversee all boundary changes to electoral districts, and changes regarding district shape are made without regard to any political party.

The process for redistricting must not be bi-partisan, but non-partisan. People on various committees cannot come to the table with a vested interest group or six-term incumbent in mind when the time comes to redraw the districts.

This would then increase interest and turnout in many races and hold seemingly invincible members of Congress more accountable to the public.

Shaun Wyche is a senior political science major. He may be contacted at [email protected].

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