Editorial, 5/27: Brazen partisan power on display

2011-05-26T23:59:00Z 2012-01-11T13:00:28Z Editorial, 5/27: Brazen partisan power on display JournalStar.com
May 26, 2011 11:59 pm

Nebraska Republicans have wasted little energy trying to convince anyone that their redistricting plans are intended to serve the overarching public good.

Probably because it's so obvious that they intended to blatantly, shamelessly do everything they could to benefit the Republican Party.

That's why voters in Lincoln, the biggest population center in the 1st Congressional District, find themselves in a district that for at least the next decade will include faraway cities like Norfolk, Columbus and Bellevue, while nearby towns like Beatrice will be in the 3rd district.

As Democrats have pointed out, and Republicans have tacitly conceded, the GOP's single-minded priority in redistricting was to boost Republican strength in the 2nd Congressional District, which in 2000 gave its electoral vote to President Barack Obama.

Once every 10 years, elected officials get to turn the tables by choosing their own voters, rather than the other way around.

The Nebraska GOP has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

But only the Pollyannaish among us would believe that Nebraska's Democrats would do anything different if they had the overweening power that the Nebraska GOP possesses.

The ruling parties in every state have done the same through the history of the Republic. The term gerrymandering, after all, dates back to the early 1800s.

A quick Google search shows Democrats are up to the same tricks in states like Illinois and Maryland. In both states Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governor's office.

It's doubtful that the courts offer much recourse for voters who think they have been slighted. Any Nebraska Democrats under the illusion that the maps drawn up by Republicans will be overturned by the courts ought to take a look at the nation's top 20 most gerrymandered congressional districts as ranked by Slate Magazine.

Those maps show districts with long tentacles that reach out for precincts rich in Democratic and Republican votes, and districts with bulging pockets of voters connected only by long threads through enemy territory.

By comparison the maps of Nebraska's congressional districts are a marvel of contiguity and compactness.

There is one thought that can offer consolation to anyone bothered by the naked, unabashed display of partisan power that was on display in the recent exercise in drawing district boundaries.

When all the partisan plotting and scheming is done, election outcomes are still up to the voters. As long as voters hold the final authority, there's hope -- no matter what your political inclination.

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