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Redistricting revisited again?

By Scott Tibbs, November 21, 2006

With the upcoming purge of inactive voters in Monroe County, we will have fewer precincts in future elections. As voters are purged, precinct maps will have to be redrawn, and that means it will likely be necessary to redraw the County Council districts again. We went though an intense redistricting process in 2005, when the Republican-controlled County Commissioners approved new maps to replace the gerrymandered maps the Democrat-controlled County Commissioners drew in 2001. See the 2001 and 2005 maps below.

And there is little doubt that the 2001 districts were gerrymandered.

  • Merriam-Webster defines gerrymandering as follows: "To divide (a territorial unit) into election districts to give one political party an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible."

  • Reference.com defines gerrymander as follows: "To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections."

  • The Cambridge International Dictionary defines gerrymandering as follows: "When someone in authority changes the borders of an area in order to increase the number of people within that area who will vote for a particular party or person."

  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines gerrymander as follows: "Manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class."

Can anyone tell me with a straight face that the 2001 maps were not drawn for political advantage, which by definition is gerrymandering? Can anyone tell me with a straight face that the districts were not drawn to give "Green Democrat" Mark Stoops, who was in a much more GOP-friendly district and who Republicans were going to target in 2002, a much easier district?

I think it is amusing that some Democrats are so vehemently denying that they did not engage in partisan map-drawing. The 2001 districts complied with the law and were, for the most part, compact. It is not illegal to draw districts with the intent of helping your party, and redistricting is an inherently political process. The Republican maps were gerrymandered too, in that they were drawn to give the GOP an edge in the 2006 election.

The districts drawn by the GOP last year are more compact, follow township lines more closely, follow natural boundaries better and are closer in population than the old districts did. In hindsight, however, it was a mistake to redraw the boundaries for 2006 when another mid-decade redistricting would be necessary due to the precinct realignment and purge of inactive voters.

Where redistricting could really get interesting is not the County Council races in 2010, but the City Council races next year. Purging all of those voters and then redrawing the precinct boundaries is a major task, and that is before we even get to redrawing city council district boundaries. Can all of that be done before the first day of filing for City Council seats? If so, how would this affect the student-heavy districts represented by Brad Wisler, Dave Rollo and Steve Volan? There are a lot of questions to be answered in the next two months.

County Council districts

2001 County Council maps

2005 County Council maps