Thursday, June 09, 2005

Another Call for Redistricting Reform

One of the most pressing domestic issues facing our nation is the need for redistricting reform. Because of rampant gerrymandering, there are now very few competitive elections for seats in The U.S. House of Representatives or in state legislatures across the nation. Competition ensures that the changing needs and desires of the people continue to be well represented. Right now, the system is geared for the needs of the incumbents rather than the voters.

Writing for Blueprint Magazine, the president for policy at the Democratic Leadership Council, Ed Kilgore, argues that reform is needed now.

[S]elf-interested legislators … are entrenching partisan control by gerrymandering safe districts for incumbents. In other words, politicians are choosing voters, rather than voters choosing politicians. By reducing the number of truly competitive districts, gerrymandering also tends to disenfranchise independent voters and increase the power of the ideological extremes in both parties. It thus contributes to the ever-growing and ever more toxic partisan and ideological polarization of American politics.
Kilgore goes on to lay out possible methods for creating more competitive districts and ends by calling on all Democrats to make redistricting reform part on the a broader Democratic reform movement.

Well, redistricting reform is already a key component in the Centrist reform movement and we are quite pleased that the Centrist-leaning DLC is calling for action on this important issue.

We question all the time how Democrats can win back support from moderates and Centrists. Embracing this issue would certainly be a positive step toward achieving that goal.


At 11:22 AM, Blogger emilie said...

This topic has always interested me. And by 'topic' I mean 'the way the US has set up the geographical-electoral process.'

I agree that we are in dire need of redistricting reform. However, during this process I wish we would consider more 'outside-of-the-box' options.

For starters, I think the House should have WAY more Reps. Using 'simple math,' currently each Rep represents about 690,000 people.
Even with my impeccable leadership abilities, I'm not too proud to say that I could NOT accurately represent this many constituents and their needs.
I don't see anything wrong with having the apportioned number of Reps increasing in proportion to the nation's population.
Yeah, so it would be a big fat riff-raff rally on the House floor.
I say cool! Isn't that what it's supposed to be anyway??

Secondly, I really despise the winner-takes-all system. (And yes, I'm a winner!)
If Candidate P gets 51% of the vote, (s)he automatically represents 100% of the voters.
I'm not crazy about the parliamentary system, either, but I do know that those governments have WAY more parties represented because seats are allotted on a proportional-vote basis.
On the contrary, our system begets this boring-ass, two-party drudgery.
If we're sick of, it we need to change the mechanism itself.

By the way, I have no idea if my above-mentioned musings are 'in line' with Centrists. I kind of forgot that's what this blog is all about, so if I'm 'supposed' to stay focused on the Theme, just let me know.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


Nah, no themes here. All views are welcome and encouraged.

You know, I hadn't though about increasing the number of representatives. The Constitution says: "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand" which means, technically, we can have a heck of a lot more representatives. I'm not sure why the number is stuck where it is at 435, but it's been that way since 1912.

Maybe they don't have any more chairs.

As for proportional representation, that would blow the two-party system right out of the water. I have no idea what ultimate effect that would have, but I do know it would take a Constitutional Amendment. The chance that 2/3rds of the House would vote to radically change the Republic system is remote. Worth the debate though.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Alan, why would proportional representation require a constitutional amendment?

I'm not a constitutional scholar by any means, so I'm interested in this answer as I've wondered about this subject myself for many years.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


Well, it might not take an Amendment. The constitution doesn't really mandate how states fill their house seats. So, technically, a state like California could do away with districts and elect all their Representatives at-large.

BUT (and this is a big one) that might not be allowed under the 14th amendment equal protection clause which guarantees equal liberty under the law. A proportional vote could, argurably disenfranchise rural areas, or blacks or any other number of groups. It would, at the very least, likely be in violation of the voting rights act which guarantees minority representation. -- at least that's my understanding. Anyone who actually HAS a law degree is welcome to step in.

Also, there is a good reason districts exist. One person specifically represents the needs of his/her constituents--you know who your representative and who to turn to if you need something. If you have proportional represenation, representatives will no longer be able to identify exactly who your consituents. are. They would, in effect, be representing an ideology and not people.

But you know, electoral college votes can be proportional by state. I've always thought that'd be a good idea--candidates would start running in all the states instead of just florida and ohio.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger emilie said...

I don't think we should do away with districts. For example, we could divide districts into areas of X amount of people; all districts would have the same amount of people.
From there, a specified number (also standardized) of candidates would run within the district. Let's say 5 of them.
(The 5 who eventually end up on the final ballot would be chosen during the primaries.)
Additionally, during the primaries, voters would vote for candidate-partners...people who are running 'along side,' rather than 'against' the main candidates.
These 5 people can represent parties or they could just have opinions like the rest of us (we don't always have to belong to a party).
So, say Candidate A won 40% of the vote. That would mean he wins 2 out of the 5 spots, so he and his candidate-partner both go to Washington.
It wouldn't be like just designating spots to parties--like what happens in the UK--because the voters have chosen everyone who ends up on the ballot, candidates and candidate-partners alike.

The numbers would all be based on the candidate-to-population ratio discussed in my earlier comment.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


dang, you've thought this thing through.

I still question though, where are they going to put all the new chairs? ;>)

At 4:28 PM, Blogger emilie said...

I don't know...that's a tough one. Also tough about my proposal: getting people to care enough to vote so many times and in such an informed manner. However, maybe if it was this huge thing in which we were completely re-doing HR elections, then the inaugural year would be a hit!

They should build a huge House complex--like a 'debate stadium'--right downtown in classical-style architecture, of course. They're going to need it with the 9565 new reps coming in.


Post a Comment

<< Home