Originally published at Blog-City April 27, 2006
The Republicans of George W. Bush did not invent War Profiteering; they have simply taken it to a new level of treachery never before imagined.
The Republicans of George W. Bush did not invent Voter Discrimination; they have simply taken it to a new level of treachery never before imagined.
The Republicans of George W. Bush did not invent Gerrymandering; they have simply taken it to a new level of treachery never before imagined.
All three Practices are corrupt, unfair, immoral, but effectively legal practices, which must be made illegal. These three practices cannot continue in America if we are to call ourselves a Democratic nation. Once that is accomplished, we must be constantly vigilant because the rich and powerful are always inventing or improving methods to subvert Democracy, the majority, and the Will of the People. We can NEVER stop fighting for our “Inalienable Rights” because the rich and powerful are constantly plotting new and improved schemes to take them away.
And these Practices are not Relics from the 19th century; each one of these 3 Practices is alive and well and currently being exploited in the 21st century with no end in sight!
Some schemes are so complex that, even when they are explained, the average voter is still in a fog, bored, or completely discombobulated. The world is a complex environment. The more complexity that exists, the less voters are likely to object, demand explanation, or even care. The rich and powerful count on your indifference, ignorance and confusion. The best way to rob you is not with a gun, but with a scheme so abstruse that even PhDs do not fully understand its consequences. I have researched Gerrymandering so that I can explain it to my Readers and myself. It is essential that we understand it. If we do not understand it, we will permit it to continue. You cannot or will not change that, which you do not understand. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gerrymandering is a controversial form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage. The word “gerrymander” is named for the American politician Elbridge Gerry (July 17, 1744 – November 23, 1814), and is a portmanteau of his name and the word “salamander,” which was used to describe the appearance of a tortuous electoral district Gerry created in order to disadvantage his electoral opponents. “Gerrymander” is used both as a verb, meaning “to commit gerrymandering”, as well as a noun, describing the resulting electoral geography.
Gerrymandering may be used to advantage or disadvantage particular constituents, such as members of a racial, linguistic, religious or class group, often in the favor of ruling incumbents or a specific political party. Although all electoral systems, which use multiple districts as a basis for determining representation, are susceptible to gerrymandering to various degrees, governments using single winner voting systems are the most vulnerable. Most notably, gerrymandering is particularly effective in non-proportional systems that tend towards fewer parties, such as first past the post.
Among western democracies, only Israel and the Netherlands are not susceptible to gerrymandering in the national government, as they employ electoral systems with only one (nationwide) voting district. Other countries, such as the UK and Canada, attempt to prevent gerrymandering by having the constituency boundaries set by non-partisan organizations such as the UK’s Boundary Commission. Gerrymandering is most common in countries such as the United States of America where elected politicians are responsible for drawing districts.
Tabacco: The First Key is removing this function from political influence so that the Party in Power cannot manipulate Districts to its own advantage. An alternative that all voting districts require majority approval of both Democrats and Republicans, regardless of their relative numerical representation in the elected body making the decision, does not always work@ re Maximization. This same concept should also apply to Federal and Supreme Court Judges. Both functions are too important to be left to the “majority party”.
The term gerrymandering sometimes includes instances of malapportionment, where the electoral rules allow districts to significantly differ in population size. Although the possibility of districts being unequal in population can make gerrymandering particularly easy and effective towards securing electoral advantage, gerrymandering can still be done when districts are required to have equal representative to population ratios.
Methods: “Packing and Cracking”
Redrawing the balanced electoral districts in this example creates a guaranteed 3-to-1 advantage in representation for the blue voters. Here, 14 red voters are packed into the light green district and the remaining 18 are cracked across the 3 blue districts.
There are two principal strategies behind gerrymandering: maximizing the effective votes of supporters, and minimizing the effective votes of opponents. One form of gerrymandering, packing, is to place as many voters of one type into a single district to reduce their influence in other districts. A second form, cracking, involves spreading out voters of a particular type among many districts in order to reduce their representation by denying them a sufficiently large voting block in any particular district. The methods are typically combined, creating a few “forfeit” seats for packed voters of one type in order to secure even greater representation for voters of another type.
Gerrymandering is effective because of the wasted vote effect – by packing opposition voters into districts they will already win (increasing excess votes for winners) and by cracking the remainder among districts where they are moved into the minority (increasing votes for eventual losers), the number of wasted votes among the opposition can be maximized. Similarly, with supporters now holding narrow margins in the unpacked districts, the number of wasted votes among supporters is minimized.
The Dame Shirley Porter case
An interesting, albeit unusual method of achieving the effects of gerrymandering is to attempt to move the population within the existing boundaries. This occurred in Westminster, in the United Kingdom, where the local government was controlled by the Conservative party, and the leader of the council, Dame Shirley Porter, conspired with others to implement the policy of council house sales in such a way as to shore up the Conservative vote in marginal wards by selling the houses there to people thought likely to vote Conservative. An inquiry by the district auditor found that these actions had resulted in financial loss to taxpayers, and Porter and three others were surcharged to cover the loss. Porter was accused of “disgraceful and improper gerrymandering” by district auditor John Magill. Those surcharged resisted this ruling with a legal challenge, but, in December 2001, the appeal court upheld the district auditor’s ruling. Despite further lengthy legal argument Porter eventually accepted a deal to end the long-running saga, and paid £12 million (out of an original claimed £27 million plus costs and interest) to Westminster Council in July, 2004.
Effects of gerrymandering
Reduction in electoral competition and voter turnout
The most immediate and obvious effect of gerrymandering is for elections to become less competitive in all districts, particularly packed ones. As electoral margins of victory become significantly greater and politicians have safe seats, the incentive for meaningful campaigning is reduced. Similarly, voter turnout is likely to be adversely affected as the chance of influencing electoral results by voting becomes greatly reduced and, correspondingly, political campaigns are less likely to expend resources encouraging turnout.
An additional effect of this reduction in competition is the increased importance of securing nomination rather than ultimate approval of the general electorate for a given district, as a general win once nominated becomes more or less guaranteed in a gerrymandered district. In 2004, for example, when California’s 3rd Congressional District became an open seat after Republican Congressman Doug Ose ran for higher office, the state’s three strongest Republican congressional candidates campaigned vigorously against one another for nomination in the district’s primary election, even though several other districts remained uncontested with no Republican nominee making even a token campaign effort.
Increased incumbent advantage and campaign costs
The effect of gerrymandering on incumbents is particularly focused, as incumbents are far more likely to be reelected under conditions of gerrymandering. This is due in part both to the high likelihood of incumbents to be the ones orchestrating a gerrymander as well as the relative ease of renomination for incumbents in subsequent elections, including incumbents among the minority. This shows another commonly cited effect of gerrymandering: a deleterious effect on the principle of democratic accountability. No longer fearing removal from office with their renomination and electoral success secured due to uncompetitive elections, incumbent politicians have a greatly reduced incentive to govern based on the interests of their constituents, even when these interests reflect an issue that enjoys majority support across the electorate as a whole.
Gerrymandering can also have a more practical effect on the campaign costs for district elections. As districts become increasingly concave and oddly elongated, the difficulty of finding transportation and focusing campaign advertising across a district increases significantly, resulting in higher costs to run for office. When incumbents have an advantage at securing campaign funds (as is commonly the case), this further amplifies the advantage to incumbents that gerrymandering provides.
Less descriptive representation
Gerrymandering also has significant effects on the representation received by voters in gerrymandered districts. Because gerrymandering is designed to increase the number of wasted votes among the electorate, the relative representation of particular groups can be drastically altered from their actual share of the voting population. This effect can significantly prevent a gerrymandered system from achieving proportional and descriptive representation, as the winners of elections are increasingly determined by who is drawing the districts rather than the preferences of the voters.
Sometimes, however, gerrymandering is advocated as a solution for improving representation amongst otherwise underrepresented groups by packing them into a single district. This can be controversial, and may lead to those groups remaining marginalized in the government as they become confined to a single district and representatives outside that district no longer need to represent them to win election. As an example, much of the redistricting conducted in the United States in the early 1990s involved the intentional creation of additional “majority-minority” districts where racial minorities such as African Americans were packed into the majority. @Curiously, this “maximization policy” was supported by elements of both the Republican Party (who had little support among the minority groups) and minority representatives elected as Democrats from these constituencies, who then had “safe seats”.
Carved out with the aid of a computer, this congressional district was the product of California’s incumbent gerrymandering. This is the district of Democrat Grace Flores Napolitano, who ran unopposed in 2004, obtaining 100 percent of the vote.
Gerrymandering can also be done to help incumbents as a whole, effectively turning every district into a packed one and greatly reducing the potential for competitive elections. This is particularly likely to occur when the minority party has significant obstruction power – unable to enact a partisan gerrymander, the legislature instead agrees on ensuring their own mutual reelection.
In an unusual occurrence in 2000, for example, the two dominant parties in the state of California cooperatively redrew both state and federal legislative districts to preserve the status quo, ensuring the electoral safety of the politicians from possibly unpredictable voting by the electorate. This move proved completely effective, as no State or Federal legislative office changed party in the 2004 election, with 53 congressional, 20 state senate, and 80 state assembly seats potentially at risk.
Reforms targeted against gerrymandering
Due to the myriad of issues associated with gerrymandering and the subsequent impact it has on competitive elections and democratic accountability, numerous countries have enacted reforms making the practice either more difficult or less effective. Countries such as the UK, Canada and most of Europe have moved the responsibility of drawing constituency boundaries to neutral or cross-party bodies.
In the United States, however, these reforms remain controversial and frequently meet particularly strong opposition from groups that are benefiting from gerrymandering, who stand to lose considerable influence in such a system.
Redistricting by neutral or cross-party agency
The most commonly advocated electoral reform proposal targeted at gerrymandering is to change the redistricting process. Under these proposals, an independent, and presumably objective, commission is created and charged with redistricting rather than the legislature. To help ensure neutrality, members of the board can come from relatively apolitical sources such as retired state judges or longstanding members of the bureaucracy, possibly requiring adequate representation from competing political parties. Additionally, members of the board can be denied access to information that might aid in gerrymandering, such as the demographic makeup or voting patterns of the population. As a further constraint, consensus requirements can be imposed to ensure that the resulting district map reflects a wider perception of fairness, such as a requirement for a supermajority approval of the commission for any district proposal.
This is the case in the U.S. state of Iowa, where the nonpartisan Legislative Services Bureau (akin to the federal Congressional Research Service) draws the districts. Aside from the federally mandated contiguity and population equality criteria, the LSB mandates unity of counties and cities. Political factors such as location of incumbents, previous boundary locations, and party makeup are specifically forbidden. Since Iowa’s counties are mostly regularly-shaped polygons, the process has led to districts that follow county lines and thus appear more elegant.
In the state of Ohio, Issue 4, a ballot proposition, was placed for the voters that created an independent commission, whose first priority was competitive districts, a sort of “reverse gerrymander”. A complex mathematical formula was used to determine the competitiveness of a district. The measure failed largely due to voter inability to grasp the system and concerns that it would break up communities of interest.
Tabacco: Ignorance and Incumbent Propaganda!
Changing the voting system
Because gerrymandering relies on the wasted vote effect to be effective, the use of a different voting system with fewer wasted votes can help reduce gerrymandering. In particular, the use of multimember districts alongside voting systems establishing proportional representation can greatly reduce the proportion of wasted votes, and therefore the potential for gerrymandering. Similarly, the use of semi-proportional voting systems such as cumulative voting or the single non-transferable vote can also help achieve a large reduction in the number of wasted votes, and due to their relative simplicity and similarity to first past the post they are often advocated as a replacement system by advocates of electoral reform.
Changing the size of districts and the elected body
If a proportional or semi-proportional voting system alongside multimember districts is used, then increasing the number of winners in any given district will reduce the number of wasted votes. This can be accomplished both by merging separate districts together and by increasing the total size of the body to be elected. Since gerrymandering relies on exploiting the wasted vote effect to secure electoral advantage, reducing the number of wasted votes by increasing the number of winners in a district can greatly reduce the potential for gerrymandering. Unless all districts are merged, however, this method cannot eliminate gerrymandering entirely.
In contrast to proportional methods, if a non-proportional voting system with multiple winners (such as a form of bloc voting) is used, then increasing the size of the elected body while keeping the number of districts constant will not reduce the amount of wasted votes, leaving the potential for gerrymandering the same. Merging districts together under such a system, however, can reduce the potential for gerrymandering, but doing so also amplifies the effect of bloc voting’s tendency to produce landslide victories, which has a similar effect in concentrating wasted votes among the opposition and denying them representation.
If a system of single-winner elections is used, then increasing the size of the elected body will implicitly increase the number of districts to be created. This change can actually make gerrymandering easier when raising the number of single-winner elections, as opposition groups can be more efficiently packed into smaller districts without accidentally including supporters, further increasing the number of wasted votes amongst the opposition.
Using fixed districts
Another possible method of avoiding further gerrymandering is to simply avoid redistricting altogether and continue to use existing political boundaries such as state, county, or provincial lines. Doing this makes further increasing electoral advantage by changing boundaries impossible, however any existing advantage may become deeply ingrained. The United States Senate, for instance, has far more competitive elections than the House of Representatives due to the use of existing state borders rather than gerrymandered districts.
The use of fixed districts creates an additional problem, however, in that fixed districts do not take in to account changes in population and individual voters can therefore grow to have vastly different degrees of influence on the legislative process. This malapportionment, in turn, can have a particularly focused effect on representation after long periods of time or large population movements. The United States Senate, for instance, provides nearly 66 times the representation to voters in the state of Wyoming (the smallest) than voters in the state of California (the largest). In the United Kingdom during the Industrial revolution, several districts, which had been fixed since the formation of the British Parliament, became so small that they could be won with only a handful of voters (rotten boroughs).
Establishing objective rules for the creation of districts
Another avenue of tying the hands of potential gerrymanderers is to create objective, precise criterion to which any district map must comply. Courts in the United States, for instance, have ruled that congressional districts must be contiguous in order to be constitutional. This, however, is not a particularly binding constraint, as very narrow strips of land with little or no voters in them may be used to connect separate regions into the same district. Another objective criterion is maximized compactness, subject to other constraints such as geographic features and the boundaries of local governments.
One idea is to constitutionally define a specific minimum [Quotient], or minimum ratio between the perimeter and area of any given congressional voting district. Computer technology could ensure that population districts were drawn in such a way so as to minimize [Inequality] and effectively eliminate Gerrymandering. Although technologies presently exist to define districts in this manner, there are no rules in place mandating their use, and no national movement to implement such a policy.
The unusual “earmuff” shape of the 4th Congressional District of Illinois connects two Hispanic neighborhoods while remaining contiguous by narrowly tracing Interstate 294.
Gerrymandering computer technology
The introduction of modern computers and the development of elaborate voter databases alongside special districting software have made gerrymandering a far more precise science. Using these databases, politicians can obtain detailed information about every household including political party registration, previous campaign donations, and the number of times residents voted in previous elections. Using this information alongside other predictors of voting behavior such as age, income, race, or education level, drawers of a new electoral map can predict the voting behavior of each potential district with an astonishing degree of precision, greatly increasing the efficiency of gerrymandering and reducing the chance of accidentally making a district competitive.
National historical examples
Gerrymandering in the United States
U.S. congressional districts covering Travis County, Texas (outlined in red) in 2002, left, and 2004, right. In 2003, Republicans in the Texas legislature redistricted the state, diluting the voting power of the heavily Democratic county by parceling its residents out to more Republican districts.
The United States has been subject to gerrymandering since the initial carving of territories into US states. Combined with malapportionment rules for representation in the Senate and Electoral College, gerrymandering allowed the United States Congress significant amounts of control over its own political makeup. Prior to the American Civil War, with the contentious issue of slavery dividing the Congress, states were admitted on a formula of “one free state for each slave state” in order to prevent one side from gaining the upper hand. This nearly prevented the state of Maine from seceding from Massachusetts until the Missouri Compromise was agreed upon, and it was decided that Texas and California would both enter as single, but large, states.
The practice of gerrymandering the borders of new states continued past the Civil War and into the late 19th century, where the territories of the Rocky Mountains were split up into relatively small states to help the Republican Party maintain control of the Presidency – each new state brought in three electoral votes regardless of its population size (Compare a map of the United States in 1860 with a map from 1870).
Throughout U.S. history, the possibility of gerrymandering has made the process of redistricting extremely politically contentious within the United States. Under U.S. law, districts for members of the House of Representatives are redrawn every ten years following each census; it is common practice for state legislative boundaries to be redrawn at the same time. Intense political battles over contentious redistricting typically take place within state legislatures responsible for creating the electoral maps, however federal courts are often also involved. Sometimes this process creates strange bedfellows interested in securing reelection; in some states, Republicans have cut deals with opposing black Democratic state legislators to create majority black districts. By packing black Democratic voters into a single district, these districts essentially ensure the election of a black Congressman or reelection of a black state legislator, however due to the packed concentration of Democratic voters the surrounding districts are more safely Republican.
Ironically, this kind of gerrymandering along racial lines has been used to both increase and decrease minority representation in state governments and congressional delegations.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
After the Civil War, with the rewarding of voting rights to freed slaves, state legislatures turned to racial gerrymandering and poll taxes to disenfranchise minorities, most of whom were in geographically distinct areas. Eventually, these practices led to a major civil rights conflict; gerrymandering for the purpose of reducing the political influence of a racial or ethnic minority group became illegal in the United States under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (along with poll taxes by the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964), however gerrymandering for political gain remained legal.
After the Voting Rights Act, racial gerrymandering has still been used to create “majority-minority” districts. Using this practice, also called “affirmative gerrymandering”, these districts were created with the stated purpose of redressing previous discrimination to ensure higher ethnic minority representation in government. Since the 1990s, however, gerrymandering based solely on race has been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court under the Fourteenth Amendment first by Shaw v. Reno (1993) and subsequently by Miller v. Johnson (1995). The constitutionality of racial considerations in creating districts remains ambiguous, however; in Hunt v. Cromartie (1999), the Supreme Court approved a racially focused congressional gerrymandering on the grounds that the drawing was not pure racial gerrymandering but instead partisan gerrymandering, which is constitutionally permissible.
Redistricting Reform Watch 2005
For years, FairVote has highlighted how our nation’s reliance upon winner-take-all elections and single member districts for Congressional elections without national standards has left our voting process open to the abuses of unfair partisan gerrymandering. Insiders for decades have known how powerful redistricting can be for elected officials to protect friends and undermine opponents. It’s a blood sport that both parties have exploited, thereby minimizing the role of voters in the political process. By gerrymandering the districts, legislators and their political cronies have used redistricting to choose their voters, before voters have had the opportunity to choose them.
The Re-Redistricting Crisis
Typically this process has been brutal and unfair, but occurred only once every decade. Then came House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s infamous drive in 2003 to undo his home state of Texas’ incumbent-protection gerrymander with a Republican plan adopted over the objections of increasingly desperate Democratic state legislators. The Democrats’ flight to neighboring states drew national attention, but it was Texas Republicans’ successful unseating of four Democratic House seats through the re-redistricting process that caused party leaders to salivate.
In Georgia, in the wake of taking control of state government in 2004, Republicans in 2005 redrew the Democratic gerrymander of 2005. They piously defend the proposed lines as more compact, but their primary motivation is clear: two more Republican House seats in 2006.
Democrats talk of retaliation. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is no stranger to effective gerrymandering — Democrats in his state of Maryland used redistricting to oust two Republicans in 2002 — and has spoken with several Democratic governors about redrawing congressional lines in their states.
The Scramble to Reform
As a result of these efforts, state legislators across the nation are scrambling to develop independent redistricting reform proposals to curb these abuses. But even non-partisan redistricting can be a partisan tool. When a party doesn’t have the votes to do its own plan, it obviously would prefer a group of retired judges to draw non-partisan lines than leaders of the other party.
Indeed, the redistricting problem can’t be solved by any one state. No matter what states like California, Georgia and Louisiana do, we will be left with a mismatched patchwork of standards across the country. What’s fair in the context of one state can be nationally unfair if non-partisan redistricting is done only in one party’s strongholds, while the other party runs wild in its strongholds.
Going Beyond Tinkering at the Margins
The lessons of our years of research on Congressional elections indicate that resolving the gerrymandering dilemma is only part of the problem. Redistricting reform can minimize the ability of partisan legislators to punish their enemies and reward their friends, but for competitive elections, legislative diversity, and other public interest goals multimember districts with proportional voting are needed to maximize the effectiveness of these reforms – and ensure all voters have choices and no strong prospective candidate is shut out of a chance to participate.
In the rush to reform the redistricting process, FairVote calls on reformers and legislators alike to develop sound and effective policies tailored to these clear goals. Our Redistricting Reform Watch 2005 report monitors the impact of state redistricting reform proposals on future proportional voting options, competitive elections, voter choice, and diversity in government.
Real redistricting reform is proportional representation
By Rob Dickinson
Published March 21st 2006 in San Francisco Examiner
Since November 8, there has been considerable discussion about the failure of ballot measures in California and Ohio to implement independent redistricting. Unfortunately, most of these discussions miss the point about what is wrong with our current electoral system and how to reform it. And none of them arrive at the proper conclusion, which is that it is time for America to join most other Western democracies in adopting a proportional voting system.
People, who supported these measures, consider their ballot box failure as a significant missed opportunity to correct the almost complete lack of competition inherent in our current system. People who opposed these measures point to the significant flaws in the design of the independent redistricting alternatives or to partisan motives of the proponents.
In either case, both the proponents and the opponents of independent redistricting make the faulty assumption that the whole issue is about who should draw the lines for single-member legislative districts (i.e. where only one legislator is elected from each district) and what those district boundaries should look like. Once this assumption is made, we have already eliminated the only real opportunity to achieve true competition and fair representation, which is to move from our current winner-take-all electoral system to a more fair and representative proportional system.
It is taken almost as a given that competition is the ultimate goal when determining legislative districts. Why is that? Certainly we envision that competitive districts will lead to a richer debate around the issues. We also assume that candidates will have a greater incentive to represent the wishes of the majority of the electorate if they need to compete to win their votes. But perhaps more fundamental than these obvious reasons is a belief that competitive districts are more fair than districts in which the outcome is all but pre-determined, generally with the incumbent winning. Americans value “fairness”, and many people see it as inherently unfair that a large percentage of the voters in each district have no chance to elect a representative who shares their views. Thus the desire to make legislative districts competitive is both a desire to make politicians more accountable and to give all voters a greater say in who represents them.
The paradox is that achieving competition in legislative districts actually makes them less fair rather than more fair. Consider an almost perfectly competitive district, where 50 percent of the voters support one major party and 50 percent support the other major party. Obviously, elections in this hypothetical district are very competitive, but how fair is the result? In our winner-take-all system using single-member districts, half of the voters in that district will be represented, i.e. have a representative who shares their views, whereas the other half of the population is effectively marginalized.
The first thing most newly elected officials say when they win is that they will “represent all of the voters and not just those who voted for them”. Sadly, this is not often the reality in our highly polarized political culture. Elected officials may want to represent all of their citizens, but voters are deeply split on many of the most important issues of our time, and so the political philosophies and policy agendas of the major parties are often diametrically opposed. Thus voters who live in districts that elect winners from the opposing party are effectively unrepresented. As a result, competitive districts provide good representation to roughly half of the voters in those districts and little or no representation to the other half of the voters. By contrast, in a district heavily favoring one party, a larger majority of the voters are represented by someone they support, but there is no competition.
An example of how a substantial percentage of the voter base is marginalized is the liberal enclave of Northern California. Despite having overwhelming Democratic majorities in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Marin, and Monterey Counties, these areas still have significant percentages of Republican voters, typically between 20 and 35% of the voters declaring a party affiliation. These Republican voters are never able to elect a member of their party. The same is true for Democratic voters in conservative strongholds. It is fantasy to think that independent redistricting will solve this problem, as the various regions of California are now dominated by one or the other major party
Competition and representation are mutually exclusive in a winner-take-all single-member district system. You can have one but not the other. Given that, it does not matter who draws the district lines in a single-member district system or how they are drawn since we already know that the solution will not produce both competition and fair representation. Evidently independent redistricting is not the answer.
So what is the answer? We need to have districts that elect more than one person to the Legislature and we need to elect these multiple representatives using a proportional voting system. A moderately proportional voting system for California’s Assembly could be based on having sixteen 5-member districts instead of our existing eighty single-member districts. Under a proportional voting system, if 60% of the voters in such a district vote Democrat and 40% vote Republican, 3 of the 5 seats would go to Democrats and 2 of the seats would go to Republicans. Each party would achieve representation in proportion to the support they have among the public.
Such a system would also be inherently competitive, as members of both parties would need to get out to vote in order to receive as much representation as they can. And even in an area dominated by one party, the candidates from that party would still be competing among themselves to win the seats that the voters of that party are entitled to.
It’s time to move beyond re-hashing the same tired debate about who draws the district lines and think about what it really means to be represented and how to provide fair representation to all citizens. And that requires that we consider proportional voting in multi-member legislative districts.
Rob Dickinson, Executive Vice President
Californians for Electoral Reform
Tanner redistricting bill gains Senate sponsor
By Josephine Hearn
Published March 1st 2006 in The Hill
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) will wade into the debate over redistricting tomorrow, introducing a bill to establish a bipartisan process to redraw congressional district lines.
The bill will be identical to House legislation put forward by Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) last year. Tanner’s bill has 45 co-sponsors, including Republican Reps. Phil Gingrey (Ga.) and Zach Wamp (Tenn.).
Tanner’s bill would direct leaders of state legislatures to name members of a bipartisan panel that would rewrite district boundaries following the decennial population census. The measure is designed to cut down on the increasingly popular practice of gerrymandering, in which states redraw district lines to benefit one party, to protect incumbents or for other political reasons.
Republicans famously succeeded in a middecade redistricting scheme in Texas before the 2004 elections that helped them pick up five seats in the House.
The Supreme Court today will consider the constitutionality of that plan, which was done middecade. Tanner said yesterday that the court’s ruling could be pivotal for advocates of reform.
“I think it’s a critical issue to the future of our democracy and everyone is waiting to see what Supreme Court is going to do. … I’m hopeful they will say that it doesn’t pass constitutional muster to simply redistrict whenever from the standpoint of one-party government. The people have no say-so in this.”
Gerrymandering has steadily reduced the number of competitive seats in recent congressional elections, ensuring that the vast majority of incumbents are reelected.
Johnson’s support brightens the prospects for the measure, which until now had few backers aside from House Democrats, who wield scant legislative power.
A spokeswoman for Johnson said she hoped that the bill would gain steam as Congress considers reforms to lobbying and ethics rules.
“There are certain things going on at the national level that could put the spotlight on it, things like overall ethics reform and a general feeling of cleaning up D.C. If this is considered part of that, there’s going to be interest.”
Some reform activists, however, held out more hope that individual states would pass ballot measures to curb gerrymandering than that federal legislators would enact sweeping reforms.
“We were approaching it from a state-by-state basis, but we’re obviously supportive of any federal efforts as well,” said Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause. “[Johnson's support] is obviously a positive step. We very much believe some momentum is building behind redistricting.”
Common Cause, along with other public-interest groups Public Citizen and Fair Vote, endorsed Tanner’s bill last year, as did the Blue Dog Coalition, a band of conservative House Democrats that Tanner helped found.
In the states, Florida is nearing approval of a November ballot initiative to turn the redistricting process over to a panel of retired judges. The measure faces a challenge in the state Supreme Court.
Tanner said uniform federal standards for redistricting would be preferable to a piecemeal effort, “but if people want to do it state by state, it’s OK with me.”
He also said he hopes his fellow Democrats would consider including the measure in their recently introduced ethics package, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
The Tanner and Johnson bills would set up state commissions of no fewer than five members to handle redistricting only once every 10 years. The majority and minority leaders of the state legislatures would select equal numbers of commissioners, and then those commissioners would select a final person to serve as chairman. The commissioners may not have recently held elective or appointed office or worked for a political party or campaign.
The commission must redraw districts with an eye toward contiguity and compactness to prevent the sprawling districts that are now commonplace in many states. In their deliberations, they may not weigh the party affiliation of voters, the district’s voting history or the effect of the new districts on incumbents.
Tabacco: Now for the pièce de resistance! Richard Fassett wrote a “Letter to the Editor” at the New York Times, which was republished by Fair Vote, which Tabacco is republishing below. We The People can solve the problems of America and the World. I think Mr. Fassett is onto something here. Ideas like his need to be distributed to the masses so that a grassroots movement can force our legislators to take meaningful action, not that profiteering stuff they usually do in Congress. I’d be very interested in Reader feedback on Richard Fassett’s idea. What do you think about Gerrymandering, Proportional Representation & “REAL” Election Reform?
A Dramatic Idea for Election Reform
By Richard Fassett
Published December 11th 2005 in New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “The Number One Reform” (editorial, Dec. 4):
Why even keep districts around? It’s time to swallow the pill we’ve been holding under our tongue for 200 years: we live in a party system. Why not just vote for the party? Each party can have a number of seats in the Assembly proportional to the percentage of the vote it wins.
Maybe other voices could even get heard. New York is unique among states in that it has influential third parties. They rarely get elected to office, however. If the Independence, Conservative and Working Family Parties get a little say in the Legislature, it potentially can bring new ideas to the table. The end consequence might be that new, workable ideas spill into nearby states, and ultimately into national discourse.
As long as there are districts, somebody will try to gerrymander them. For those who are concerned that localities will no longer be represented when districts are gone, there will still be the Senate.
THE DILEMMA OF DEMOCRACY
How do you ‘amend’ Slavery so that it is a good thing?
How do you ‘amend’ Capital Punishment so that it is a good thing?
How do you amend War for Profit so that it is a good thing?
How do you amend the Privatization of Social Security so that it is a good thing?
Some Institutions, some Legislation, some Concepts are so vile in nature that to amend them is virtually impossible. However if you ‘amend’ Manure, it is still Manure – even if you change its name! But at least Manure performs utilitarian functions when used appropriately. There is nothing good about GERRYMANDERING in the hands of Politicians!
The Political Parties in power use Gerrymandering
to maintain their power,
*to deny minor Parties the ability to gain elective office,
to deny each other the ability to win within gerrymandered districts,
to deny the Will of the People, and ultimately to undermine Democracy.
* Without the name recognition of an individual, who has money and power already, a third Party has little chance of attaining the Presidency and no chance at all of gaining a foothold in Congress. Even the Tea Party has no candidates; they support select Republican candidates. Former President, Theodore Roosevelt, and billionaire, Ross Perot, ran 3rd Party campaigns, and both lost. Other 3rd Party efforts in the past were so devoid of hope that merely mentioning them here would be a waste of print.
How do you ‘amend’ Gerrymandering so that it is a good thing? The Answer is: you can’t! However, redistricting is a necessary thing. So it must be done! But it should never be placed under the purview of the Politicians, who stand to benefit from it! And the dilemma is this:
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!
In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.
T.A.B.A.C.C.O. (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People
Do you understand the meaning of these terms:
WASTED VOTE EFFECT
as they relate to Gerrymandering? If not, read the Article. You need to know what they have been doing for over 200 years in America. Democracy? Forget it! It has NEVER been here.
There is a solution; I wouldn’t be writing this Post if there weren’t.