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Playing games with maps in Monroe County

By Scott Tibbs, October 11, 2012

Redrawing districts for elected officials is almost always something that flies under the public's radar, with both the public and the media paying little attention to the process of drawing the maps and the end result of what the maps look like. But because these maps play a huge role in who gets elected - and therefore play a huge role in what gets passed as public policy - the public needs to pay closer attention to the maps and the news media needs to cover it more thoroughly. There are two maps here in Monroe County that merit closer review. I have posted these maps:

The Republican wave election of 2010 did not have much impact for Republicans in Monroe County, though Republicans did pick up a seat on the county council. The Democrats went from having a 6-1 majority to having a 5-2 majority. Apparently, that was not enough, so the maps had to be redrawn in the Democrats' favor.

Enter the new county council map, which replaces the map Republicans drew in 2005 to replace the gerrymandered maps drawn in 2001. For more on the 2005 redistricting battle, see my posts from the summer and fall of that year:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V and Part VI.

The new Fourth District moves Ryan Langley from the Second District into the Fourth District, setting up an incumbent vs. incumbent battle in a new district that much more heavily favors Democrats than Langley's current district. This was clearly drawn to get rid of Langley, forcing Republicans to pick up a newly open seat to replace the seat they are likely to lose two years from now. Republicans, to my frustration, have not uttered a peep about this.

While the county council maps are gerrymandered, the MCCSC School Board maps are simply obscene. The MCCSC districts actually have islands that are completely cut off from the rest of the district, surrounded on all sides by another district. I am not sure this is legal, but even if it is legal it is certainly a very badly drawn map. It is universally recognized as best practices that districts should be contiguous.

The only redeeming feature of the MCCSC maps is that School Board representatives are elected district-wide, rather than only in their district. So no matter how bad the maps are, it does not impact the election other than who is legally permitted to run in each district. However, the fact that this is getting no coverage is shameful.

Surely the Herald-Times has reporters who are capable of looking at the maps on the MCCSC website. One would think they would be curious about the district boundaries, especially since this is an election year. Most voters, even those who closely follow the news, are not going to go look up the district boundaries themselves, so unless the newspaper covers the issue, they will not know about it. By not covering the MCCSC district map scandal, the Herald-Times has failed the people of Monroe County and failed to hold elected officials accountable.