Line, Line, Everywhere a Line   Leave a comment

Today, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on the constitutionality of gerrymandering.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, for states with more than one seat in the US House of Representatives, state legislatures get to draw the lines for districts.  In many states, the lines get drawn in very bizarre ways with the intention of favoring the political party that controls that state’s legislature.  This is how the Republican Party was able to win 24.2% more seats than the Democratic Party despite only winning 1.1% more actual votes nationwide.  Republican states certainly aren’t the only ones doing the gerrymandering, though.  The Democratic-dominated Illinois legislature drew up this district:

illinois

Here’s an outside the box that would eliminate the difficult question of when the ‘creativity’ of drawing lines has gone too far: eliminate districts entirely.  For any state with more than one seat in the US House, the candidates are voted for statewide, rather than individually by district.  Take my home state of Indiana and its nine seats for example.  Instead of splitting the state’s voters into nine separate groups, each choosing among candidates ‘living’ in their district (more on that word ‘living’ later), all voters in the state would select one of a party’s slate of nine candidates: the Democratic slate, Republican slate, Libertarian slate, or any other party that wanted to field a slate.  The number of seats allotted to each party would be determined by the percentage of votes each slate won nationwide.

Again using Indiana as an example, in 2016 the combined vote of the nine Congressional districts was 54.28% Republican, 39.61% Democrat and 6.12% Libertarian.  Due to the way the districts were drawn, the Republicans actually won 7 seats and the Democrats only 2.  The statewide method would have given the Republicans 5 seats and the Democrats 4 seats. The Libertarians would have very narrowly missed winning one of the seats that went to the Democrats.  With nine candidates on the ballot together instead of separated by district, each party would have to have a priority order to their candidates, meaning that the top five of nine Republican candidates and top four of nine Democratic candidates get seats.  Presumably the candidates would be ranked based on their vote totals from the primary elections.

Two benefits to this method:

The first is that state delegations would better reflect each state.  54 percent of the vote would no longer get you 78 percent of the seats.  Also, Libertarians and other third parties would start getting seats.  No individual Libertarian got close to enough votes to win a seat in any district anywhere in the US, but the party did get 1.3% nationwide and enough votes to win a seat or two in a few states by the statewide method.  Also, knowing that the statewide method would provide a lower threshold for winning seats might encourage more voters to vote for third parties, which in turn (hopefully) would make the two major parties more accountable to the voters.

The second is that the statewide method would reduce, if not eliminate, the process of carpetbagging.  Carpetbagging is when a person moves to a place that (s)he has never lived in previously, purely for the purpose of establishing residency in order to run for office in that location.  As a purely hypothetical example, in 2016 the US House member for my district, Todd Young, decided to give up his House seat to run for Senate.  This created a rare open seat in a Republican leaning district.  A Republican who wanted to run for Congress but lived in a district with a popular incumbent Republican Congressman, such as the 3rd district in Tennessee, might have to wait a while for a seat to open up.  Instead, (s)he could simply move to Indiana’s 9th district a few months before the primary election to establish residency, and then run to represent that district in Congress.  With the statewide method, such a person is much less likely to get elected and possibly deterred from even trying.

So, what do you think of my idea?  What are the downsides to such a method?

 

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Posted June 19, 2017 by Andrew Cabiness in Uncategorized

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