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David Hines [userpic]

Hines solves the world's problems: Gerrymandering!

October 10th, 2006 (04:32 pm)

Random political stuff: everybody has their pie-in-the-sky dream of one institutional change they’d like to make to politics. Mine isn’t fancy or glamorous, or even ideological. I’m just mildly annoyed by the ability of Congresscritters of all parties to redraw the borders of their districts to minimize their chances of being voted out. This is not so much a problem in the Senate, for the simple reason that Senators run statewide races and you can’t redraw state boundaries. But in the House, it’s pretty bad.

So here’s the Hines solution to gerrymandering: *require all Congressional borders conform to existing borders that aren’t likely to change.* ie, make Congressional districts correspond to the borders of existing geographical units that have built-in institutional resistance to gerrymandering.

I have two suggestions that would fit the bill: a) counties and b) zip codes.

The conservative in me would prefer to go with counties. They’re a political unit already, so people are used to thinking of them in those terms. Plus, there are few enough of them so that, when you hear one mentioned that’s in your state, you have some vague idea of what region is being talked about. Whereas the average person’s reaction to the news that Joe Wannabe is running in the 19th district is apt to be along the lines of, “Where the fuck’s that?”

The drawback of the county method is that while Congressional representation is determined according to population, some counties are big as hell and some are small. My answer: some Congresscritters will represent more than one county, and some counties (the really big ones) will have more than one Congresscritter. How does that work? Let the critters sort it out amongst themselves.

The other alternative: the zip code. Geographically based. Politically resistant to change. (Don’t think so? Imagine how pissed you’d get at your Congresscritter if he tried to *change your address* every couple of years. People don’t give a damn what Congressional District or Ward or whatever they live in, because they don’t use that information every day, and folks who aren’t politically inclined typically forget that stuff until election time rolls around again. Mailing address? Different story.) Smaller than counties, so less need to worry about several Congresscritters would juggle one. Potential downside: possibly too small: they could be susceptible to being shuffled between districts, especially if some smart Congresscritter desides to start using those dang plus-four codes.


Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: October 10th, 2006 05:22 pm (UTC)

Part of the problem is that the Supreme Court has said that gerrymandering is not only legal, but any representative that didn't try to do it wasn't doing their job.

As I understand it, Iowa uses a (supposedly) non-partisan committee to redraw congressional districts. I like that idea, especially if they base the districts on some sort of communal self-interest: groups of people who use water rights, commuting lanes, big industries, natural disaster risks, that sort of thing.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: October 13th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)

I'm pretty uncomfortable with the whole non-partisan committee thing, myself, partly because I tend to be skeptical of the enlightened status of unelected people in political (if theoretically non-partisan) positions. For some reason, every time politicos decide what my communal self-interest is, they have a very different idea of it than I do...

Posted by: A large duck (burger_eater)
Posted at: October 15th, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)

A lot would depend on how the people were chosen, especially how open the process was. We might not be able to put a lot of trust in individuals, but if the system were set up so that no one side could push their agenda through, we might get a workable system.

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