Smart Ideas: A Better Way to Draw Districts

AP Photo/LM Otero
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March 8, 2018, 8 p.m.

Work-life balance for congressional districts

Garrett Dash Nelson, writing for CityLab

One way to look at the efficacy of congressional districts in keeping together “communities of interest” is to map commuter patterns. Under this standard, a “good” map “would keep areas that are connected by commuter webs together in the same district as much as possible.” The “best” five states by this metric—”Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee—all have a fairly even spread of population and medium-sized urban centers that are distributed at a distance from one another.” The worst, like Nevada, Hawaii, and Rhode Island, are “characterized by heterogeneous geography and difficult-to-contain urban clusters.” Due to differing geography, this score is difficult to compare across states, so its best application is “to test multiple proposed maps in one state against each other.” In the most recent round of redistricting in Pennsylvania, the new map scores significantly better than the old one, which sliced up the Philadelphia area in particular.

Congress has ceded too much ground on tariffs

The Editors, writing for the Washington Examiner

Should President Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs start a trade war, they “could be the beginning of economic calamity. … The real problem, though, is that decisions such as these should never have been left in the hands of just one man.” As in the case of President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, Congress has ceded too much ground to the White House on too many key issues. “Congress needs to step up now and reassert its role in U.S. trade policy, restoring an important check against presidential power. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has a bill to do just that. The Global Trade Accountability Act would require congressional approval of all unilateral trade actions, including tariffs and other restrictions on imports. This bill has now been languishing in the Senate Finance Committee for more than a year, but it’s time to dust it off and at least try to pass it over Trump’s veto.”

Census is no place for immigration questions

Michael R. Strain, writing for Bloomberg View

The Census should not ask respondents about citizenship status; such a question would further scare an immigrant population already subject to undercounting. The administration’s proposal to do so is a marked change from the 2010 Census, when “staff put up signs reading ‘NO INS. NO FBI. NO CIA. NO IRS’ in immigrant communities.” Republicans should oppose this for two reasons, the first being cost. “When someone refuses to complete the survey, the Census Bureau doesn’t just shrug its shoulders and move on to the next house. Instead, the bureau must send in workers with clipboards to encourage the reluctant person to respond.” Second is politics: “On balance, this undercounting would help red states when it comes time to direct federal spending and apportion seats in the House,” but red states with high immigrant populations like Alabama, Texas, and Arizona could lose House seats if there is an undercount.

A Salvadorian restaurant and souvenir shop nestled in the Mission District of San Francisco AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

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