Redistricting Isn't Sexy, But It Matters

Sometimes I wish there was a sexier way to say it. A way to get people excited as soon I whispered the word. A way to make them want to talk about it, read about it, and, yes, even do it.

I'm talking about the infamously tedious, political process known as "redistricting." The thing is that this seemingly dull and uninteresting exercise -- which occurs just once every 10 years -- also happens to represent one of the most significant, periodic events in American politics.

Political junkies know exactly what I mean. To redistrict is to redraw the geographic boundary lines of the thousands of local and regional voting districts across the nation. I'm talking about the areas represented by your city council members, state representatives and members of Congress.

If you haven't heard or read much about this year's redistricting process in your local news, don't feel too bad. It's not all your fault.

Reporters, as a general rule, would rather stick hot pokers in their eyes than cover redistricting. Why? Because it's a complicated subject. It doesn't produce great pictures. And unlike a house fire, the story isn't there and gone in a day. The redistricting process can take months to complete.

As for the public -- the audience for this seemingly mundane news story -- most of us would rather hear about a congressman's sordid love affair than whether our district fairly represents the interests of minority or low-income voters. Unless, of course, you're a minority or low-income voter.

Fortunately, we have organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, known as MALDEF, which fight for the rights of the proverbial little guys. Because little guys tend to have little or no power, they need groups like MALDEF and the NAACP working on their behalf.

Why should we care more about redistricting? Because the decisions being made today about how to redraw the boundary lines of your congressional districts, for example, could affect you for the rest of your life. How's that for a serious consequence?

It's because the stakes are so high that MALDEF and others have filed lawsuits across the country challenging some of the initial proposals to redraw some boundary lines. In its California lawsuit, MALDEF is arguing that the proposed redistricting plan violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act by minimizing the ballot-box influence of the state's Latino and Asian voters.

Meanwhile, a lot of incumbents are less than thrilled about the idea of redrawing the boundary lines of their districts. The way they see it, democracy is all well and good, as long as it doesn't threaten their grip on power.

So, you see, it is an important process -- even if it is a little boring. Now say it with me. And if it helps, go ahead and say it in a sexy voice: redistricting ...

Didn't that feel good?

James E. Garcia is editor and publisher of E-mail the writer at

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