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Power Breakfast: The Disciplinary Effects Of Transparency

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From Capital News Connection:

It's that time of the decade when state legislatures use fresh census data to determine who's going to be represented by whom in Washington. The problem with redistricting, according to Congressman Jim Cooper, is that the public only learns the outcome after it's a done deal.

"Democrats want Democratic districts, Republicans want Republican districts -- and they're really in cahoots on this," Cooper says.

The Nashville Democrat has introduced a bill to challenge this bipartisan conspiracy by requiring legislatures to reveal their redistricting plans in advance. Politicians have been gerrymandering since the beginning of time. And post-2010 Republicans have the upper hand for this round. But the advent of modern computing was the real game changer.

"They're able to divide subdivisions, houses, even in theory double beds to get exactly the sort of partisan districts they want," Cooper says.

Wait -- double beds?

"Well, traditionally, Republicans have been known as the 'daddy' party and Democrats have been known as the "mommy" party, so presumably if you knew which side of the house the wife was sleeping on, she would be more likely to be Democratic than her husband...Sometimes just for partisan spite they'll take an incumbent out of their own congressional district...so a lot of mischief is done with this mapmaking. And it's really the secrecy of the mapmaking that's the problem."

Cooper's redistricting transparency bill has been referred to committee. As a Democrat in a Republican-led House, this is as far down the field as he can get. He's counting on voters -- regardless of party -- to push their members to support H-R 419.

"It's something that both parties -- they're almost embarrassed if it's pointed out they're refusing to even consider this," Cooper says. "But we have to get them to the point of embarrassment by highlighting the issue."

Hence, the transformative power of shame.

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