Friday, July 25, 2014

The Problem with Election Reform is That Elected People Have to Reform It

Op/Ed from Pennsylvania Sentinel:

Suggestions for reform of the national and state election system abound each election year.
But with both governmental systems seemingly polarized and hobbled majority parties able only to cobble together policies which alienate political opponents, most suggested remedies are doomed to failure.

Pennsylvania, despite its Republican majority in both the state House and Senate, graphically mirrors those liabilities with calls for reform in how districts are redrawn and how primaries are conducted grew once again following this May’s balloting and echoes will resound for months following the November general election.

The answer, of course, is wide election reform, the elimination of “gerrymandering” by the establishment of an independent redistricting commission which takes the drawing of legislative districts out of the hands of individuals most likely to benefit from how the boundaries of such districts are set.

A major obstacle to redistricting reform, enshrined in the state constitution, is the required creation every 10 years of a reapportionment commission to redraw districts based on the most recent census data.

The rub is in the members of such a panel as used in Pennsylvania: sitting lawmakers whose very political futures rest on the shape of the legislative map.
One obvious fix: an independent redistricting commission free of elected or appointed politicians — a remedy at which entrenched political interests are sure to balk.
Reapportionment as now practiced in the state also cries for reform of the primary election system — a rigged game in which incumbents often walk to re-election because voters in the opposition party aren’t allowed a say in the process.

The political reform group Common Cause cites one “destructive result of this situation is that the most extreme wings of each party tend to dominate the party, and moderates are marginalized.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, wrote earlier this week in The New York Times that “For those of us who are in despair over partisanship and polarization in Congress, reform of the primary system is a start.” He cited the primary victory last month of a sitting U.S. senator, Mississippi Republican Thad Chochran, over an Tea Party challenger, with the help of crossover balloting of African-American Democratic voters.