June 29, 2006

SCOTUS: Gerrymander Away

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The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, with Kennedy being the swing vote, that politicians may gerrymander the districts in their state at any time they want, so long as it does not disenfranchise ethnic populations. (PDF of ruling.) The case was about Tom DeLay's famous non-census gerrymander in Texas that helped Republicans stay in power.

The decision cuts both ways, of course: Democrats are no more restricted in doing this than Republicans are. This may even act as a signal for all parties in power in any given state to gerrymander and fortify their parties' positions.

Personally, I'm no fan of the gerrymander, whoever does it. And as I've said before, you can't have it both ways--you either accept all gerrymandering or none. Republicans, for example, gerrymandered the hell out of Texas, but then in California, tried to pass an anti-gerrymandering measure, because Democrats hold and have reshaped the state. You can't do that and not be a raging hypocrite. It's all or nothing.

And frankly, I'm for nothing. I think there should be a Constitutional amendment that breaks the back of redistricting. (Wow! A constitutional amendment proposal that actually means something! How about that!) There should be a random and mathematically logical sequence to it, something like, start in the northwest corner of the state and move south and east, drawing districts as you cover the number of people that will make up each district. Something like that, which will have no prejudice to party or even to race. Just have it work out randomly, and keep to that system.

If you really want to stir things up, do away with districts. Just randomly assign "virtual districts" to every new voter, irrespective of their geographical location in the state. It'd make campaigning and advertising harder, but it would also do away with redistricting.

Or here's a more radical system, reworking House elections and House voting altogether: for each state, all candidates are thrown together into one big election. Everybody gets to vote for one candidate. If a state has, say, 25 representatives, then the top 25 vote-getters are chosen. That's the primary. In the main election, people then cast their vote again for one of those 25 winners. Each winner then represents the percentage of votes in the state that were given to them in votes in the House. More complicated, but also a hell of a lot more representative in a true sense! Gerrymandering would lose all meaning in such a system, and the opinions of the voters would take on new importance.

Not that any of that is going to happen. But it would be far, far better than the stagnant and corrupt system we've got now. Gerrymandering is bad enough, but add to that the 98% reelection rate of incumbents, and what we have going on today gets downright sick. The way things work at present, with districts redrawn to predestine the outcome, and with lobbyists then making the people matter even less, it is becoming more and more the case that the people of the United States have no real sway or influence in their own government any more. A government "of the people, by the people, and for the people"? Hah! Maybe it never really was, but it sure as hell ain't so now. Not even close.

So along with a complete public election financing law prohibiting campaign contributions, and a ban on any political "buying of speech" of more than $20 per person, redistricting should be made illegal.

So I'm a radical. So what? I'm right.

Posted by Luis at June 29, 2006 01:48 AM