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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 18, 2017

Blum adds voice in opposition to partisan gerrymandering

Oct 05, 2017

By Christina Crippes, Waterloo Courier

 

WATERLOO — U.S. Rep. Rod Blum (R, 1st Distric) wants the rest of the country to look more like Iowa. At least when it comes to how the state draws its congressional districts.

“Iowa does it right, and I’m very proud of that,” Blum said. “If you look at (Dave) Loebsack’s district, my district and David Young’s district, I mean they’re competitive districts.”

Blum, a second-term congressman from Dubuque, joined a bipartisan delegation of 34 current and former members of the U.S. House in submitting a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the appellants in Gill v Whitford.

The case, which had oral arguments before the court Tuesday, is looking at whether partisan gerrymandering was used to draw district maps in Wisconsin and whether that’s constitutional.

Blum said he was invited to join in the amicus brief, or friend of the court brief, to oppose hyper-partisan gerrymandering, and it was a natural fit.

“I think it’s part of draining the swamp,” Blum said. “I really think if we could drain the swamp here, and this is a step in the right direction, if we can have a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court and make congressional districts more competitive, that will help drain the swamp as well.”

Blum said, and the brief argues, that more competitive districts make members of Congress more responsive to the people in their districts and also more willing to cooperate in Congress by joining bipartisan caucuses or seeking common ground on some bills.

“The principal problem with partisan gerrymandering is that it encourages partisanship for its own sake. That, amici strongly believe, is something no member should embrace,” reads the brief Blum signed on to.

Blum is the only member of the Iowa congressional delegation to have signed on to the brief.

Iowa, though, is well known for its system of redrawing districts every 10 years after new U.S. Census data becomes available. The proposed maps are drawn by a committee that has the aim of making the population in each district as close as possible and trying not to separate counties into different districts.

The map is then voted on by the Legislature, without amendment, but if the lawmakers reject it, the committee then has to draw even more evenly split districts.

Blum said he doesn’t see “representative democracy” when he looks at the rest of the country’s districts, however. He said in the brief that “you probably have 25 to 35 congressional districts that are actually competitive” out of 435. Another lawmaker estimated even fewer swing districts.

“When I see colleagues of mine that are in safe districts, they kind of go Washington, it seems like, and they become career politicians and they care more about what the Washington (D.C.) media says about them than what their constituents say,” Blum said.

Though Blum signed onto the amicus brief, he did not attend the oral arguments in the case Tuesday. He had a better offer. Blum said it was an “easy decision” to choose to go see veterans from Cedar Rapids who traveled to Washington, D.C., for with the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight.

But he planned to hear to hear about the arguments over lunch with someone who was there, actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been very active and outspoken against partisan gerrymandering.

Schwarzenegger said Wednesday during a press conference that aired on C-SPAN after the hearing, “You know it is a fixed system ... so I say it is time to say hasta la vista to gerrymandering, and it is time to terminate gerrymandering.”

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