Thursday, August 25, 2005


Fact and Comment
Steve Forbes, 02.14.05, 12:00 AM ET

Bring Back Democracy to America

A great blight of our democracy today is that most congressional and state legislative elections are noncompetitive. Thanks to sophisticated computer technology, politicians can now draw district lines that virtually guarantee the reelection of incumbents or preserve seats for particular parties.

The districts often resemble a Jackson Pollock painting or a bowl of spaghetti thrown on the wall. Towns are carved up into numerous pieces.

Houses in the same neighborhood can find themselves with different legislative representatives. Most of these races today have all the suspense of those in the former Soviet Union.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently proposed that in California the responsibility for drawing congressional and state legislative districts be removed from the politicians and given to a panel of nonpartisan retired judges.

Lines would be sensibly set again for compactness and would keep communities in the same district. Politicians would actually face realistic electoral contests once more.

Of America's 435 congressional districts, only about 35 had real contests this past November--about a third of what we had in 1992.

After the 1990 census, districts in New Jersey were constructed so that every incumbent member of Congress was guaranteed reelection. The same thing happened in California:

In the last election not one California house seat changed party hands. In 2002 the only switch came when Representative Gary Condit was undone by the scandal surrounding the murder of one of his interns, with whom he subsequently admitted having had an affair.

Today in the U.S. only Iowa, Arizona and, to a lesser extent, the state of Washington make honest efforts to draw honest nonpartisan districts. What politicos have wrought is also an argument for term limits.

In this modern day, incumbents have huge advantages--ready access to the media, taxpayer-financed political mailings sent out under the guise of constituent-information newsletters, taxpayer-financed "constituent offices" that are really disguised political headquarters and contributions from special interests.

Forcing politicos to repot themselves every few years would be a good thing. Critics claim that we would be deprived of experienced legislators. Not really. For much of this republic's existence, most of those who served in Congress sat there for only a handful of years. California already has term limits. Now it needs Arnold's reform to have honest, competitive legislative districts.

Monopoly is bad for business, and competition is good. The same holds true for politics.

Didn't know that US election is also doing the same things as Singapore like redrawing of boundaries.

Now even the superpower is learning from us, shouldn't we Singaporeans proud of it?

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