Saturday, February 19, 2005

Termitate Gerrymandering

Steven Hill writes in the NYT concerning the Governator's plan to attack gerrymandering in California. Mr. Hill explains in his piece that in the other states that have election districts picked by non-elected persons, votes are not any more competitive than they are in California, and often less.

The problem appears to be that the party lines have hardened at the edge of the city. Inside the city, here be Democrats. Outside the city, here be Republicans. Unless election districts are formed in artificial pie slices that encompass an equal number of urban and country voters, election districts will continue to be non-competitive.

There is one other possibility that might be worth looking into:
We can't change where people choose to live, but we can begin using some type of proportional representation system. For example, California could use a system like that in Peoria, Ill., for municipal elections. Instead of electing 40 state senators from 40 districts, voters in 10 districts could elect four senators each. Any candidate who won at least a quarter of the vote would earn a seat. These districts would be far more likely to be bipartisan, even electing some urban Republicans and rural Democrats.
In other words, more like Iraq.

No matter what you think about Iraq, there is one thing that stands out as important in the Iraq vote. Many Christians were prevented from voting. Yet, a Christian list got enough votes to send a representative to the Iraqi national assembly.

Now, if this system allows a Christian to get elected in Iraq, then in the USA a city Republican and her country Democrat cousin could both get elected. This would result in stronger candidates getting elected, and make elections less of a horse race and more of a marketplace of ideas. Plus it would start to break down the two-party system, which is responsible for so much of the demonization around US politics.
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