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Al Redistricting, continued from page 9 Such an assertion raises an important question: What do voters want? A multiple choice in the voting booth? What’s the point of voting if there’s no chance to make a choice? In the actual world of drawing district lines there will always be a mix of some districts with “safe” seats and others that are competitive. In fact, there needs to be. Persily notes that if it were possible to draw all districts at close to 50-50 parity, “the slightest shift in voter preferences would lead to a landslide victory for one of the parties.” A certain number of politically lopsided districts is helpful in creating overall partisan balance. After all, voting is more than a “consumer choice” questionit is a collective attempt to form a representative government. Yet all of this begs the question of what happens when things get too far out of balance. Sam Hirsch, a lawyer with the Washington firm Jenner & Block \(which argued for the plaintiffs in both the Vieth case and the Texas case now before in 2003 that suggested Republican use of redistricting in four key states Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohioaccounts almost entirely for the current Republican majority in the U.S. House. The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 showed these states to be razor-close in party preference. And yet Republican majorities in those four statehouses allowed them to draw district lines in ways that gave them strongly Republican congressional delegations. Meanwhile, with the national Republican party falling into disgrace, the unlevel playing fields may prevent Democrats from having a fair shot at regaining Congress in 2006. When the problem is examined this way it presents an interesting set of strategy choices for Democrats, progressives, and good-government reformers. Should the election system be reformed to create more competition or less partisan bias? Fairness and competition are both important values. But they are not necessarily compatible goals. So let’s see what happens in Florida, as Common Cause urges voters to create a non-partisan commission this November. Voters can expect to hear the usual talk about the need for more competitive elections. What they’ll really be asked to decide is whether partisan gerrymandering in Florida gives them an unrepresentative government. For Democratic partisans, there’s a more direct approach: Take back the statehouses and win governor races wherever possible. And get it done by 2010. Dave Denison is a former editor of the Observer. To find a selection of his recent work, see . FIGHT THE POWER GRABBERS! ROBERTS! AUTO! YOU WITH US? DAVID S1ROTA HOSTILE TAKEOVER How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government and How We Take It Back DRUID SIROTA is the founder and co-chair of the port progressive state legislators and fight back against the right-wing’s extremist campaigns at the state level. He is widely known for his tenacious focus on working class economic issues that are often ignored by America’s political elites. Sirota is currently a senior editor at In These Times magazine. He is also the author of a regular section in The Nation, a regular contributor to The American Prospect, blogger for Working Assets, and a twice-weekly guest on The Al Franken Show. SAVE THE DATE: FRIDAY, APRIL 21 The Texas Observer will host David’s first book signing. Hostile Takeover is a guide to fighting the forces hostile to average Americans that are hijacking our government. SPECIAL GUEST: CONGRESSMAN LLOYD DOGGETT `Hostile Takeover is not for the Powers That Be, but for the Powers That Ought to Bethe ordinary grassroots people of our country. Use this book as a lesson plan and action plan for taking our government back.” Jim Hightower 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 10, 2006