Friday, February 14, 2014

Can we really reform redistricting? Is the ‘human’ element just too strong?

I always get a giggle whenever I log onto my e-mail accounts and see a prominent name as having “sent” me a message.

EDGAR: Pleading for my money
Not that I’m delusional enough to think that the aforementioned person has any clue who I am, or really cares what I think. But the way in which activist causes try to create that image can go far – particularly when they’re asking for money.

IN THE LATEST instance, I got a message on Thursday from former Gov. Jim Edgar – who apparently is now part of the Yes for Independent Maps crusade.

They’re a group that looks at the sorry situation we have where partisan politics has completely taken over the way things get done, and thinks the key to breaking up such political hard-headedness is to change the way in which legislative and congressional district boundaries get drawn.

After all, if political people don’t have such a strong influence in determining that their districts are drawn in ways to include only supporters and their opponents’ districts containing all the opposition, then maybe people might have more of a say.

As Edgar put it in the e-mail, the current redistricting measures, “harms communities across the state and creates a system where we, the people of Illinois, are no longer choosing their representatives.”

NOW I’M AWARE this is a generic form letter sent out by the group to many people who wound up on their e-mail lists (you should see the ones I constantly get from allies of Barack Obama, and even a few of Obama’s harshest political critics).

The real thing they want is for me to donate money. This latest e-mail contained a convenient link so I could easily whip out a credit card and make a contribution to the Yes for Independent Maps group (based in Chicago).

I don’t really believe that Edgar has given me any thought since the day he ceased being governor back in January 1999 (and I doubt he gave me much thought even when he was governor and I was one of the Statehouse reporter-type people who tried to document his every political move).

A noble cause?!?
But maybe he is sincere about this latest involvement in redistricting reform.

BECAUSE I REMEMBER that while he had a generally sympathetic Illinois Senate when he was governor (and for one brief two-year period had complete Republican control of state government), it was often those alleged political allies of the GOP who were his most outspoken critics.

And some of them who now wish he’d just go away as a relic of the past, rather than trying to influence current political policy.

When it comes to this particular issue, it really is a flaw of both sides. We hear a lot of complaining about how Democrats have used their influence over state government to disregard a significant swath of the state.

Yet I also recall that two-year period as one in which Republicans did exactly the same thing to the people they wanted to perceive as their opposition.

I CAN’T SYMPATHIZE with those GOPers who think they’re being dumped upon now by Democrats because it always comes across that they’re not interested in fairness as much as being able to be the ones who do the dumping on others.

The only problem I have with these activist-types who say they want to reform the process is that I’m not sure if we’re just going to get political geek-types with their own ideological hang-ups drawing boundaries.

For those who say the process should be done by a computer program that draws maps without regard to special interests, I’d wonder if the person who writes the program has his own hang-ups to deal with.

Because some of those “interests” – particularly all of those concerning districts promoting the interest of certain non-white persons in our society – do have to be acknowledged.

SO WHEN SOMEONE comes up with a way that can seriously disregard bias by all to prepare political boundaries, perhaps then I could get on board in support.

Until then, I won’t be taking up Edgar’s e-mail plea to donate my money. I’m skeptical.

And yes, I’m also cheap!


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