One state took a small step this week , but we’re a long way from eliminating noncompetitive districts and partisan malfeasance.
By ALAN EHRENHALT
After the 1980 census, when California Democrats needed to redraw their state legislative districts, they turned to their map-making guru, Congressman Phillip Burton, one of the shrewdest political minds of his generation. Burton gave them a map so blatantly partisan that it sank the state’s Republicans into a minority status from which they haven’t recovered.
Needless to say, Republican legislators were livid. “What’s the matter?” Burton said. “Can’t they take a joke?”
Gerrymanders are no joke, as the congressman well knew. But they always look a lot more amusing to the party that draws them than to the party that finds itself frozen out. Shortly after Burton’s death in 1983, Democrats in the Legislature drew a congressional district for his widow, Sala, that all but precluded a serious GOP challenge. Democrats gleefully called it a Salamander. Republicans didn’t think that was so funny either.