DUNWOODY, Ga. — John Tures, professor of political science at LaGrange College, joined a special episode of the Georgia Politics Podcast April 8 to discuss redistricting and reapportionment.
The process of reapportionment is conducted every 10 years after the national census. It carries significant political ramification to federal and state elections. Gerrymandering, labeled “the most political activity in America,” and independent redistricting commissions are also covered.
Tures is a frequent columnist in statewide and regional outlets.
On March 31, the Georgia General Assembly adjourned its 40-day legislative session and is expected to take up redistricting in the coming months. The finalized census data, the key ingredient to this process, has not been been released.
Here are excerpts from the episode:
Q: When we talk about redistricting what is the most important part that you teach your students? What is the importance of the process?
A: Gerrymandering is the drawing of legislative districts for partisan advantage. The legislators who are in charge, who win the election, at certain cycles just before the census data comes out, they have the chance to draw districts to favor themselves. (The redistricting process) is typically state legislatures draw maps, sometimes the governor is involved (depending on the) state.
Q: The other part of this process is reapportionment. Could you tell us about that?
A: People move from state to state, and so some states lose votes and some states gain votes. It is possible that a state can gain people, but lose seats. We do not know the final numbers, but I believe Georgia should gain at least one Congressional seat.
Q: What are some of the gerrymandering tactics used to draw districts?
A: People who engage in gerrymandering might try to pack a district, put as many supporters of your opponent all in one district so that it wins like 100 percent of that district, but it enables you to pick up several districts by taking voters (and) packing them all into one big district.
Cracking is trying to win a whole slew of districts very narrowly by breaking up your opponent’s support, so that they get 45 to 49 percent, but your party can win a whole bunch of narrow victories.
Q: In states that use an independent commission to draw districts, is there less likelihood of litigation or partisanship? Is this a better model than one party drawing districts?
A: I think initially I was very excited about the idea of an independent commission that would try to look at the process and draw as fairly as possible. I like the idea of an independent commission. I like the idea of politicians not drawing their own seats and the idea of more competitive districts.
The one thing I worry about, and we have not seen so many cases of these, are the states that have independent commissions actually having fairly drawn districts. and the end result not benefiting one party over the other. (Independent commissions are made) of unelected officials, and I worry about unelected officials drawing lines that can be so powerful. Any independent commission should have a set of rules to go by, like you can only cut through X percentage of counties. That way it would not seem to favor (one party over another).