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The Texas Gerrymander Case: What Now?

// Published June 28, 2006
Today's Supreme Court decision will be a disappointment to those looking for a knock-out punch against partisan abuses in the redistricting process. But the courts never were likely to take the kind of dramatic steps that truly would address the problems associated with partisan redistricting. Doing so requires the wisdom of King Solomon in balancing the competing good government values that never can be fully satisfied within the tight constraints of single-member district, winner-take-all elections.

We need the political will to create solutions in the public interest for how to draw district lines, and how to regulate mid-decade redistricting. That effort should start with a drive in Congress to set standards for mid-decennial redistricting. Those worried about national parties breathing down the necks of state legislators to gain ongoing partisan advantage after each election don't need to simply wring their hands: they can ask Congress to uphold its constitutional authority to regulate reapportionment and U.S. House elections.

That's why FairVote supports efforts like Tennessee Congressman John Tanner's Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren's Redistricting Reform Act to establish minimum guidelines for states to follow in establishing district lines. National legislation avoids the partisanship that often impedes state-by-state efforts.

But we must not stop there. Other news out of Texas shows the path we must ultimately tread. Just yesterday the College Regents of Amarillo voted unanimously to settle a federal voting rights case by adopting cumulative voting for its future elections. Cumulative voting is a proportional voting system that allows more than one political grouping to elect a representative in the same constituency. The root of our growing redistricting crisis is the winner-take-all, all-or-nothing nature of single-member districts. Proportional voting methods are the only means to accomplish all the goals we seek in redistricting reform - fair representation, voter choice and accountable leadership.