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Voters In 3 States Pass Non-Partisan Redistricting Measures

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Voters in Colorado and Missouri and Michigan overwhelmingly approved ballot measures calling for nonpartisan redistricting. These measures seek to end the practice of gerrymandering or at least limit it. Republicans control many state governments, which means they've had almost a decade now of enjoying district maps that were drawn to their advantage in many states. We go now to Dave Daley, who is a senior fellow at FairVote, which advocates for nonpartisan redistricting. Good morning, Sir.

DAVE DALEY: Good morning, Steve. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: You must be happy with the results last night.

DALEY: This is really thrilling. I mean, at a time when the Supreme Court has shown little willingness to get involved in fixing gerrymandering, on the eve of a 2020 Census in which this process is likely to become even more sophisticated and more surgical, creating districts that are even more extreme, it is wonderful to see that there is one thing that still unites voters in red states, blue states and purple states, and that is they all hate gerrymandering.

INSKEEP: Well, it was interesting that this measure passed in someplace like Missouri, which elected a Republican senator while also passing this ballot measure the very same electorate. Let me ask, though, how big a problem this really is. There has been much focus on the fact that Republicans got to draw the district lines in many states after 2010. They drew the vast majority of the lines under which people voted yesterday and in the days leading up to yesterday. Yet despite that advantage, Democrats just won the House. Does it really matter that much?

DALEY: Oh, I think it absolutely matters. I mean, Democrats are going to barely take back the House of Representatives, despite winning the national popular vote there by upwards of 3.5 million votes. And the difference there could very well come down to the new maps in Pennsylvania on which folks had elected 13 Republicans and five Democrats all decade. That will now be a 9-9 state.

INSKEEP: Well, that's a...

DALEY: And then...

INSKEEP: That's a...

DALEY: ...In Florida...

INSKEEP: That's a place, we should remind people, where a court ruling overturned the Republican...

DALEY: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...Map.

DALEY: You had fair maps in Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia that were the result of mid-decade redraws that were forced by courts that tossed out unconstitutional partisan and racial gerrymanders. Those seats became more competitive in those states and may well have been the balance in flipping the house to the Democrats last night.

At the same time, take a look at a state like Wisconsin, for example, where Republicans did draw all of the State Assembly and State Senate lines. But Wisconsin went wildly democratic last night - a Democratic governor, it looks like, all of the statewide offices. And yet, there will be no movement in Wisconsin's congressional delegation or in control of the state assembly or the state senate there.

INSKEEP: OK.

DALEY: That is a powerful example...

INSKEEP: Of gerrymandering...

DALEY: ...Of the...

INSKEEP: ...And the power of...

DALEY: ...Of gerrymandering, yes.

INSKEEP: Let me just ask quickly, though - Democrats are gaining now. They're gaining in state legislatures, which, in many states - most states draw the district lines. Do you have any reason to have any more faith the Democrats would do better if they control most of the states after 2020?

DALEY: I think that both sides love the power of the pen. As long as there have been politicians, they have loved to gerrymander. Democrats have been talking a good game. Eric Holder and his commission, as well as Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats the other day, came out with a plan that said they would be taking on gerrymandering in their first 30 days.

INSKEEP: But you'll...

DALEY: Let's see what happens.

INSKEEP: We'll see what happens. OK, Dave Daley, author of a book called "Ratf**ked" (ph) on gerrymandering, senior fellow at FairVote, thanks very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.