If lawmaking is the sausage factory of government, then redistricting is its killing floor, where the public weal is often wrung like a chicken's neck to cater to the wishes of those in power.
Even at the county level, where the stakes are lower and (we like to think) the sensibilities of our elected officials are less venal and bloodthirsty, redistricting can become a grim and heartless business, a business that tends to forget its original purpose. We fear something grim and heartless is about to happen in Denton County as officials go about redrawing the county commissioners' districts, and we hope cooler heads prevail.
County commissioners recently produced the first draft of new map for the county's four commissioners' districts. It apparently divides the city of Corinth between two of those new districts. On the draft map, a small portion of southern Corinth would be sliced from Precinct 1 and transferred to Precinct 3. Precinct 1 Commissioner Hugh Coleman has objected - vociferously - at losing part of his precinct, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell has responded in kind. The full Commissioners Court, with the help of a committee of political party officials and representatives of ethnic groups, will presumably iron out the dispute without actually spilling any blood.
Without analyzing anyone's political motives, we have to come down on Coleman's side in this dispute.
Legislative districts - or, in this case, precincts - should ideally reflect as much as possible the political and physical boundaries of a region as well as the "community of interest" of the people who live therein. A city such as Corinth certainly constitutes such a geographical, political and cultural unit, and should not be divided by a precinct line if such a division can be avoided.
This is not always possible, of course. The city of Denton is simply too populous to be contained in a single commissioner's precinct. To do so would make equally populated precincts impossible.
But surely there is a way to keep a smaller city like Corinth intact.
We have no wish to carry Commissioner Coleman's water on this issue. If it were possible to move all of Corinth into District 3 without tipping the delicate population balance of the rest of the county, we would have no great objections, though the voters of Corinth might. We do not know if Hugh Coleman is the people's choice in Corinth or not, but at least he is the commissioner for everyone in Corinth. When the county does something right in Corinth, or something wrong, everyone in town knows who to praise or to blame. A city doesn't need to cope with two county commissioners whose interests may not always be in sync. They need one representative to assume responsibility.
And that, of course is what redistricting is about, or should be: creating precincts as equal in population as possible while recognizing existing communities of interest and adhering to an admittedly complicated series of federal rules concerning minority voting strength.
It is a complicated process, and there may be factors to this equation that we don't know yet. We can't be 100 percent sure at our far remove whether there is a way to keep Corinth from being split into two precincts.
But we hope there is.