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Politicians Should Look to Capitol Steps, Not Court House Doors for Redistricting Relief, Taxpayer Group Says

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(Washington, DC) -- Disgruntled politicians seeking relief from partisan gerrymandering should take their case to the legislature, not the courts -- that's the advice of the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) as the Supreme Court takes up the issue today. NTU supports federal legislation to curb abuses of partisan gerrymandering, but wishes to see court claims disappear from dockets. The consolidated case of League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry gives the Supreme Court a final opportunity to allow Congress, not the judicial branch, to address claims of political gerrymandering.

Early this year NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul Gessing endorsed H.R. 2642, the Fairness and Independence Redistricting Act of 2005. In a letter to the bill's sponsor, John Tanner (D-TN), Gessing contended that H.R. 2642 "would go a long way toward creating more competitive races for the United States House of Representatives."

At first glance, this bill would not seem to have a direct impact on taxpayers, but NTU believes H.R. 2642 is key to restoring the citizen-legislator model our Founders envisioned, by creating independent state-level redistricting panels. Gessing's letter noted, "Unfortunately, although the process of drawing lines on a map to preserve political power has a long history in this country, the use of computers and other modern technologies has created a situation in which there are only 25 or so truly competitive races for 435 seats nationwide."

The letter stated that taxpayers should be wary of politicians who pick voters, rather than vice versa. Gessing continued, "Current conditions only exacerbate the problems associated with incumbency and the tendencies of career politicians to grow ever more generous with taxpayer dollars as they spend more time in office."

NTU's Deputy Press Secretary Sam Batkins expressed hope that the Supreme Court's jurisprudence will continue to evolve by ruling political gerrymandering claims nonjusticiable, and the Supreme Court should therefore uphold the lower court ruling. The last case concerning political gerrymandering, Vieth v. Jubelirer, fell one vote short of dispensing with federal court involvement in political gerrymandering claims. In the Court's history, it has failed to create a workable standard for discerning between "fair" and "unfair" partisan maps. For this reason, NTU is urging the Court to allow the legislature to take up the matter on behalf of taxpayers and good government advocates.

"As a taxpayer group representing Americans concerned with out-of-control spending in Washington and the ever-increasing influence of special interests, we support genuine efforts to bring accountability to the political system," Gessing's letter concluded.

The 350,000-member NTU is a non-partisan citizen organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials at all levels. Note: Gessing's letter to Representative Tanner is available online at www.ntu.org.

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