Countdown clocks are showing up on cable TV – there to remind people that a deadline on the debt ceiling is looming. Conservatives in the House yesterday panned their own leader’s plan. So did Standard & Poor’s, which said it probably wouldn’t be enough to avert a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating. But a similar plan in the Senate may not have enough votes to pass. So where are we now?
The rapid rise of do-it-yourself redistricting is challenging the way politicians have traditionally drawn up legislative districts. Re-districting is now underway in almost every state and it’s a complicated process, with multiple and contradictory legal requirements and political realities that have to be coordinated precinct by precinct — even block by block. Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere says that “until you actually go through the process, you’ve don’t have a feel” for how everything from laws on minority representation to rivers and mountains affect the shape of districts. That complexity has kept re-districting in the hands of deal making politicians in the back room, but new do-it-yourself technology opens this mysterious world to citizens. Software programmer Dave Bradlee has created the most popular do-it-yourself re-districting website; he says, “people are becoming much more aware about how the process works, but it’s a hard road because it’s about power, this is really all about power, it’s just part of the political game, and that’s not going away.” They’ll both be with us to talk about the future of redistricting.
We’ll also speak with Forecastle Festival founder JK McKnight about how this year’s Halfway to Forecastle went, how the festival has grown from its humble beginnings, and what’s on the horizon for 2012.