Why might a Democratic Congressman support a redistricting plan that favors Republicans?
Via John Micek, Capitolwire reports on U.S. Rep. Bob Brady's efforts to get the state's current congressional redistricting plan passed. The report says Brady got State Sen. Tina Tartaglione to cast a key vote to get the new map out of committee, and that the congressman is now trying to drum up support for the plan among Philly's state House delegation.
Brady is doing this, Capitolwire says, in spite of the fact that the congressional redistricting plan "masses the largest number of urban Democratic voters into the smallest number of districts."
Why would Brady do such a thing? Isn't he Mr. Democrat? Maybe, but the proposed map isn't nearly as bad for Brady as it is for Democrats generally: "it let(s) him shoot up the Delaware River to capture more white Democrats, giving him some protection against future black primary challengers."
When redistricting gets political, it's usually cast as a partisan issue – Democrats vs. Republicans. But it can also pit powerful incumbents against newcomers, with the majority party and minority incumbents teaming up to protect the status quo.
Basically, redistricting presents many temptations for lawmakers do something other than draw maps that make sense.
Back when the city was doing Council redistricting, we wrote about ways to protect the redistricting process from these temptations:
There are other ways to redistrict. San Francisco uses a task force appointed by various authorities. It holds public meetings and changes drafts based on feedback. More than a dozen states have moved toward a nonpartisan redistricting commission. No commission is a cure-all. But the conflict of interest for Council is too great to leave redistricting in its hands alone.
Same goes for the state. Slate's Will Oremus finds that redistricting commissions have been running up against some trouble – essentially, partisans complaining about their results – but that they do produce better maps.