One Step Forward, One Step Back on Redistricting
While most of us have been otherwise preoccupied, there have been two significant developments on the redistricting reform front, one positive, one negative.
The good news is that the package of Ohio ballot initiatives, bearing the rubric of "Reform Ohio Now," has been certified as having received the requisite petitions to appear on the November 2005 general election ballot in the Buckeye State. One of these, as you may know, creates an entirely new redistricting system under independent auspices and sets out criteria placing a premium on competitiveness (one leading GOP opponent in the state predicts it could cost his party, which had previously carried out an egregious gerrymander, up to six U.S. House seats). Republicans will continue to fight the initiatives in court, and are already raising money to beat them in November, but at the moment, RON's future looks bright.
The bad news is in Florida, where one of that state's three political reform initiatives has been ruled off the ballot by a state court on grounds that its text exceeded the state's 100-word limit by six words. The disqualified initiative was the one that set out criteria for redistricting; another still viable initiative creates an independent redistricting commission, and still another requires immediate redistricting prior to the 2008 elections.
Since, IMHO, redistricting criteria are the key to successful redistricting reform, the Florida development was a serious though hardly fatal setback. Still, it looks like Ohio will provide the earliest and perhaps the best testing ground for reform. --