Gerrymander Away!

7 Jun

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Think clever and partisan redistricting will keep the incumbents in Congress?  Think again, say John Friedman and Richard Holden in an article at The New Republic online.  Based on their recent study, they argue that the Voting Rights Act constrains the most egregious types of gerrymandering, while other factors like campaign spending, a polarized elecorate, and media penentration all conribute more to the high rates of incumbancy than convential wisdom about redistricting would have you believe.

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One Response to “Gerrymander Away!”

  1. Tom M. August 9, 2006 at 8:06 am #

    Corey –

    This is a nice one. Especially considering the fast and loose manner in which Texas Republicans, and others, have been known to treat congressional districts (let alone western Pennsylvania Republicans — have you SEEN district 16 for the PA House?!) Well to be honest – let’s look at the manner in which most all parties in power in this country have attempted to play with the lines to their benefit. (I hear the Whigs were quite adept.)

    Anyway it’s nice in a way to be releived that, according to the nice folks over at the New Republic, maybe this problem isn’t as devistating a practice to democracy as it may have once been.

    But let me offer two reactions.

    First, the idea alone that a party in power would want to meddle in the inner clockwork of the democratic process is inherently disturbing to the core values of justice and equity of even the most (and especially the most) average-non-political-blog-reading-loves-apple-pie-baseball-and-chevy Americans among us. Although it is slightly ironic that they’re probably the last people to find out that even their own district has been redrawn due to their internationally reknowned abysmal participation in anything political. Anyway it’s just the point of the thing: the simple fact that those in power would abuse that power to their benefit (no matter how small the benefit may actually be) is just plain low.

    Second, there is an important issue that comes up in jerrymandering that is less direct that who wins. It’s also important to consider who loses, and I’m not refering to the politicians. What is typical of these schemes is the practice of breaking up a dense population, not necessarily of one party affiliation or another, but of other socioeconomic categories like income levels and race. That means that instead of giving even a minority voice in government to these populations, they now have no voice. They can vote all they want but the liklihood of them being represented by someome who shares similar culture, history, backgrounds, and maybe even values is about as likely as finding a naked chick in Lance Bass’s bed. And it’s not even the lack of a voice that is SO bad…it happens in each one of our country’s winner-take-all elections, but it’s the idea that these populations have been set up to lose – that they will NEVER win – that is so unpleasant tasting. No it’s just plain un-American.

    Anyway – I know that the Voting Rights Act, as you mentioned, does a lot to deter the most egregious types of gerrymendering. But there’s nothing on this planet that is more capable and determined that a paranoid politician (well maybe something but it’s early in the morning and I’m too damned lazy to go find out what it is). That is to say if there’s a will, there’s a way; just look at PA House district # 16 on a map, and, well, all of Texas, whose jerrymandered districts continue to exist and spread joy and democracy to all the rich white people. YAY!

    Later Cor – keep it up!

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