End Gerrymandering Now

Gerrymandering:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering

Simply put, the way House seats and state legislature seats are determined right now is full of corruption, and is inherently undemocratic.  Elected officials, given the right to draw district lines, can shape the districts as they so choose to advantage themselves and shut out their opponents.  Even when parties have a balance of power, districts are drawn such that they are so predominatly Democratic or Republican, which the other party goes along with because they’re getting their own territory at the same time.  Our country is analyzed, counted, charted, parceled out and divided up, all so no incumbent will ever have to face losing an election.

In almost every district in the United States, your vote for the House of Representatives literally does not, and cannot, matter.

This has been going on as long as there have been districts to redraw and politicians to redraw them.  But in the last few decades, its gotten especially nasty and absurd.  Here’s Louisiana’s 7 voting districts.  http://www.fraudfactor.com/images/fflouisianacongmap.gif

How does this happen?  Louisiana has 7 representatives districts.  This is determined by the census and population figures.  Who draws those districts?  Politicians, who have agendas, typically the banal agenda of personal stability and party cronyism.

There have been experiments with having non-partisan groups or computers draw voting districts, which is certainly an improvment on political redistricting, but there is still a fatal flaw:  these districts must be approved by politicians, who will not do so if it does not serve their agenda.

The solution is to do away entirely with voting districts and switch to a system of proportional representation.  That is to say, on election day, the Louisiana voters don’t vote for a person, they vote for a Political Party (which really isn’t that far from how most US voters act anyways).  And suppose after the polls close, the Democrats have roughly 5/7 of the vote, and the Republicans have 2/7 (to pick a number out of thin air that is probably not actually representative at all of Louisiana politics).  Louisiana Democrats would send 5 representatives to Washington, chosen by the party from a party list.  In states with open primaries, such as Wisconsin, it is likely that the order of the list would be determined in advance by voters.

There are many benefits to this system.  It allows for fifty statewide elections instead of over four-hundred local elections.  It far more accurately represents the will of the people than the current system.  It minimizes campaign costs.  ‘Pork’-style legislation will be lowered, since representatives have an entire state to cater to, not a tiny district that therefore must recieve some federal funds.

Best of all, since redistricting is done on a state level, it only takes one state to do this on their own; no national push is necessary.  All it takes is for one state to do it on its own, one progressively and rationally minded state to start the big switchover.  Others will follow, others won’t, but our nation will be better for it.

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3 thoughts on “End Gerrymandering Now

  1. Can I just give that a big fat hell yeah.
    I’m in the UK and believe that Proportional Representation basically stifles there being any point in someone like me (not served by the mainstream parties) voting. Our system differs from yours (i’m sure you know) because we have a theoretically unlimited number of parties. Most of whom have no chance of getting in. Basically we’ve got a two party system, Conservative and Labour, with a relatively strong third party, the Liberal Democrats, here’s how the seats (like your districts) went: LAB 356 CON 198 LD 62
    with a few seats going to independents or niche parties (Plaid Cymru, SNP and others). All well and good, but lets see the ‘percentage of the vote’ figure Labour 35.3% Conservative 32.3% Liberal Democrat 22.1% Others 10.3%.
    Now there’s an argument, that in a multi party system that this will give the extremists a voice they don’t deserve (the far right BNP for example). But i think it will just make the parties more willing to compromise with each other in order to do what the voters actually want (basically, from those figures, Labour wouldn’t have a majority, and would have to collabborate with at least one other party to get motions passed). Anyway…that’s what gets me riled up, especially the fact that up until around 1997 (when the Labour party got into power) they were in favour of prop. rep., but then they won, and it serves them better, so they don’t support it any more. No party with the majority is ever going to change it because TEY WOULD LOSE THEIR MAJORITY, EVERYTIME.
    Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, i just get riled up is all.
    Thanks for letting me vent

    PS What the hell is ‘pork’-style legislation? I love the sound of it, but just don’t know quite what you mean.

  2. Willow says:

    UK isn’t Proportionally Represented- it’s Pluralistically Represented-winner takes all. Unlike the US, the UK’s voting districts get one vote each, and there’s a lot more of them. That’s what makes up the coallition of the House of Commons, and determines who wins the Parliamentary election. But you live there, so you already know that, and were just confusing PR in your first sentence. It’s more representative than the United States voting system, but that’s like saying that eating manure is more pleasant than eating thumbtacks.

    (Tangent:  How many other European nations use Plurality Representation?  None.)

    “Pork” is a term used in the U.S. to refer to extraneous legislation that serves more as a kickback to one’s constituents, rather than any form of social improvement. It’s a highly subjective term, although the best measure is “does this bill or clause send money to only one district?” If so, it’s Pork- political special interests, and not the true interests of the community at large. Politicians ok each other’s Pork to get their own passed, which makes the voters in their own district happy, which helps them get reelected. The Wisconsin state budget is *notorious* for frivilous expenditures.

  3. Sorry, I am aware we aren’t proportionally represented…I just should have said in my first sentence…’I’m in the UK and believe that THE LACK OF Proportional Representation basically stifles there being any point FOR someone like me’.
    I’m just a bit thick sometimes.
    Anyway, my whole piece was centred around the fact that I WANT Pro Rep, sorry if I sounded confused…but thanks for the correction anyway, as I didn’t know the name for the Pluralistically Represented system (normally described here as ‘first past the post’). Basically I’m hoping that no party will have a clear majority next election (again….a problem with US politics…that can never happen with only two parties) and so the debate may rise and coalitions will need to be formed. I actually didn’t vote last election…and it makes me sick to say that, cause I DO buy the whole ‘voting is the most important right and responsibility we have’ business. I just genuinely felt my vote was useless (in my district there was a big kerfuffle because for the first time a Green party (right down the bottom of the list of significant parties) member had a chance of becoming an MP. The only problem was, that while this guy was a member of the green party, he was clearly still a dick (vote green leaflets coming through the door the day before election day…on non-recycled paper….and there were TEN of them…dick). So I didn’t vote. I do however, always vote in the European Party elections…and guess which system they have!!!
    Oh, and incidentally Voter turn out=61% so that means the’victorious’ Labour party got around 21% of the population. Prop rep would (I believe) massively increase turnout and just get people to actually care again. Ie be more democratic.
    Anyway..sorry to rant…but this is just one of those things

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