Redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering emerged from his secret mapping bunker Monday morning to talk about the big case. The normally reclusive Mandering refuses to give media interviews, except to the Deeth Blog.
So Jerry, what do you think of the big case? Marriage everywhere, huh.
I ain't been payin' attention. Let people do what they want.
Oh, you meant the Obamacare case.
Deeth, you got a messed up set of priorities. I'm talking' about the big case that's gonna put me outta business.
I see. You meant Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
That's the one. It's a freakin' disaster for guys like me.
Why don't you explain the issues.
So AridZone is one of those initiative and referendum state. Back in 2000 the voters passed a thing that made them use an independent commission.
Like we have in Iowa.
Pretty much the same idea but not exactly. In Iowa the politicians still get the final say, even though it's just an up or down vote with no amendments. In AridZone it was totally up to the five members of the Commission.
You mean the heads of the Five Families?
Not that commission. Now them I could work with. I asked them "Who should I give this turf to?" and they tell me, "Not to our paisan. Give it to a Jew congressman in another district." Those were the days.
Anyway, out in AridZone the legislature sued, sayin' that under the Constitution’s Elections Clause, the legislature is the ones required to be be in charge of the redistricting process.
Which party was in charge?
In AridZone it was the Republicans. Democrats do it too sometimes, which you know bein' next to Illinois. But Republicans have been been more aggressive with it lately. Me, I'm a pragmatist. My idea of "nonpartisan" is I work for whichever side pays better.
So today the Court ruled in favor of the redistricting commission. What does that mean for you professionally?
I got a serious problem in referendum states, Ohio and Michigan especially. Ohio's a split even state but map gives them 12 Republican congressmen and just four Democrats.
It's a damn shame. Just look at this beautiful map.
See that long skinny thing along Lake Erie? District 9. Nothing holding it together in the middle but a freakin' bridge. My associates got rid of a guy off of that bridge.
I'm sure there's a lot of other bodies in Lake Erie.
Not that way, wise guy. We're not the muscle end of the family. We used that bridge to hook Toledo to Cleveland so we could get rid of Dennis Kucinich.He was in enough trouble just with Cleveland because he kept running all over running for president. But throw in Toledo and he was a goner. Did the guy a favor, really, now he can spend more time at home with the wife.
I love my wife very much but Dennis is a lucky man.
You ain't kiddin'.
So let's say Ohio voters pass a referendum for Iowa-style clean districts.
My job is a lot easier when those freakin' voters stay out of it.
Does that mean Ohio gets an 8-8 map?
Maybe but probably not. But you probably get 9-7, maybe 6-10. You sure do better than 12-4.
Why doesn't it match up with votes?
Republicans get more seats per vote no matter what youse do because birds of a feather flock together. In Ohio or Pennsylvania or anyplace with a pro sports size city, you got a bunch of urban minority districts that vote 90% Democrat. Even I can't do nothin' with that. So those votes get wasted. Then out in the country you got a lot of 65, 70% Republican places, but not a lot of 90% Republican places. Just a couple, and usually those have more square miles than people. So the most Democratic places are more Democratic than the most Republican places are Republican. Iowa's one of the only places where that ain't true.
So how big a difference does this ruling make?
If every state did what Iowa does it would be YOOGE. More elections get decided on map day or on the filing deadline than on Election Day. You got 435 House districts in the country and what, maybe 30 of those are competitive. And of those 30, three are in rinky-dink Iowa which has just four total to begin with.
Careful what you say about Iowa. We like nice here.
Yeah, yeah. Here's a quarter, go buy some corn.
We don't have corn for a little while yet.
But what youse do have is competitive districts. Look at your legislature. You got maybe a third a third a third. 30-odd state House seats safe for Democrats, 30-odd safe for Republicans. Even with the sharpest knives in the business I can't cut a decent turf outta Sioux County or Iowa City.
You're scary when you talk about knives.
Remember that half a body I was telling you about?
Is a third a third a third like that?
No, your last third is open turf. Either team can win it with the right candidate, the right amount of money and a good year. So if every state does it, all of a sudden you could go from 30 competitive seats in the country to maybe 150. That's even a bigger deal than Citizens United. You can throw all the money in the world at a custom-drawn Jerry Mandering district and it won't do any good. But with an Iowa Clean style district, every race is a fight.
So if that happens, how are your job prospects?
Well, I saw this one on the docket, so I been talkin' to the Iowa City school district. I hear they need a guy who can draw funny lines.
Even I'm sick of that one, Deeth.