Redistricting and the courts

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

I always thought January was a pretty slow month. Of course, thats because I come from the Great Lakes region, in which January is nothing more than one blizzard after the next. Basically, all there is to do in that area during the first month of the year is shovel, try to stay warm, shovel, try not to kill yourself driving , shovel the snow out of the driveway (and sometimes the yard) and finally, fail miserably at keeping warm.

However, global warming must be on the rise, as this January in the year of our Lord 2012 has been a barn-burner. So many things have gone on, it almost seems as though people are ignoring the fact that were in the middle of winter, and acting as though were past Labor Day.

For all you old timers out there, Im going to digress a little bit. Prior to this 24/7 constant news cycle, fraternal, social and philanthropic clubs used to have political candidate picnics during May, and everyone took the summer off until Labor Day, when the full time business of campaigning in the general election began. It was a much more civilized time.

On another non-interesting note, whenever an old boss of mine didnt believe something, he would say he was from Missouri that would be the Show-Me state for those of you not bored to tears yet.

So weve had the 843rd debate among the Republican hopefuls for the presidential nomination, and it would appear that the GOP is divided into two groups: those who think that Romney has the best chance to win, and those that think Newt is the Republican Party standard-bearer.

But I think theres more interesting news afoot in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Apparently, like most states, and commonwealths, every ten years a commission is appointed to redistrict the states congressional and state office maps. A goal, therefore, for the two parties, is to be the one in power when that ten year mark rolls around.

In this instance, the Republicans are in power, so they were the ones doing the redistricting. Thus, a great many Democrats had their districts almost wiped off the face of the state. Some found that they would be running against other incumbents in the primary election held in May; others found that their district was moved half a state away, in an area in which the representative no longer lived.

These types of maneuvers are not uncommon. This is what happens when the party in power has control over the map, and things usually turn out very badly for the minority party.

Thankfully, residing in a virtual one-party state such as Maryland makes these issues, for the most part, moot. Redistricting may shave someones district a bit to shore up their base, but the wholesale destruction of legislative districts never seems to happen, at least not in the fifteen or so years Ive lived here.

But late last week, the unthinkable happened. The Commonwealth Supreme Court struck down the redistricting commissions proposal, stating that it wasnt correct, and that it needed to be redrawn and resubmitted. In Pennsylvania, this doesnt happen very often, maybe once every three tries or thirty years.

At this point, the Courts rationale is not clear. However, what is clear is that the commission is going back to the drawing board. For the primary season, which is a few months away, it seems as though the candidates will run in their existing districts during the primary, and then for the general, they may run in new districts redrawn as a result of the Supreme Courts ruling. Wont that be exciting, and confusing and pointless?

Finally, on a very sad note, Joe Paterno passed away recently. Im sure youve heard this from other media sources, but as a proud Penn State Alum (well, mostly proud), I thought it was worth mentioning.

Even though I wrote a column stating Joe has to go, I remain awed at the amount of good JoePa accomplished throughout his lifetime. Yes, every obituary Ive read discusses the Sandusky matter in the third or fourth paragraph of his obituary, and I think thats sad.

Theres a great Sports Illustrated piece written when JoePa was named sportsman of the year back in 1986. If you can find a copy on the Internet, take a look. Even if you didnt know him well, or know of him, youll be impressed with what he was able to accomplish. Rest in peace, Joepa.

Christopher Markham writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

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