Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fifty/Fifty, One-to-One: Electoral Fairness

Many of us believe that elections are institutions which are sacred.  It was enshrined in our Constitution in response to Great Britain's refusal to allow our colonies a voice in Parliament.  Taxes were hefty, regulation severe, and punishment unjust.  So in response, our founders enshrined voting rights into our framework to prevent exactly that.  Over the centuries, that right was expanded to more and more demographics of people until there was full universal suffrage 

For those not familiar with the US Election system, it works like this:  Every 10 years we have a census.  That census is accompanied by a redrawing of our congressional districts which determine the shape, size, and area a particular representative represents.  So for example, Washington State (where I'm from), has 10 congressional districts.  We actually created a new one during this last census.  Our state uses a non-partisan/bi-partisan committee to redraw our map.  This ensures that all parties have a voice on how district lines are mapped.  Sometimes we end up with majority districts (Like the 3rd District, represented by Jamie Herrera-Butler-R) or contested districts which could sway either way like the 8th Congressional District (currently held by Dave Reichert-R).  As civic minded people, we have a duty to make elections as balanced and fair as possible to ensure that candidates in each district have a fair shake to make their points to their constituents.  Now, obviously not every state is going to have a demographic which yields to the 50/50 philosophy.  But we can agree that making sure that as many people get a voice as possible, that states should adopt the following policy when creating congressional districts:

1) If at all possible, districts should adopt a 50/50 mentality when drawing lines.  Most districts drawn in this manner will have a 30/40/30 split in their electorate.  30 being staunchly one way or the other (60%) then 40% leaning one way or the other, meaning they are swing voters which could be persuaded one way or the other, and not having firm loyalties to either party.

2)  If a 50/50 style district is unattainable due to voting demographics, then all attempts should be made to create majority districts for both parties as close to a one-to-one ratio.  So for example, if District A is created with a firm Republican Majority, then District B which is heavily democrat should also be created, giving those districts distinct voices in Congress.  This ensures that no voter is being disenfranchised by gerrymandering.

3) Creating districts purposesly with 70/30 majorities for any party or other lop-sided majorities while there is a way of creating districts with more 50/50 mentality disenfranchises the voices of voters in districts.

Jerrymandering is the worst form of voter suppression.  It's disturbing when you find majorities of voters in a state electing disproportionate amounts of the opposition due to immoral district drawing.  When you have 50/50 splits of both parties, but then have 13 Republicans and 5 democrats being sent to Washington from Pennsylvania...that's very worrying to me.  Legislatures should not do their own district redrawing.  A bi-partisan commission of redistricting headed by a fair and impartial judge should be drawing congressional districts to ensure that all sides are fairly represented in the Congress and in the State Legislatures.  Not being fair about district redraws hurts our Representative Democracy, and undermines the system we cherish so much.

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