pacomartin
pacomartin
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September 16th, 2011 at 10:56:54 AM permalink

Elbridge Gerry was an American politician who lived from 1744-1814 whose name got attached to the practice of carving out political districts with only a notional concern about geography but a primary concern about ethnic, income, and political neighborhoods.

The 4th congressional district of Illinois is now one of the most gerrymandered political districts in the USA. At one point it meanders down the median strip of an interstate highway. The point is to connect Mexican and Puerto Rican neighborhoods to get the required 700K people and have a Latino congressional district.

The potential districts using computer programs is unfathomable. They could wind around country trails and network all kinds of different communities together into one district and still meet the topological requirement of continuity.

Illinois had 27 districts in 1930 and must lose another one for next year's election to get the total down to 18. I imagine eliminating one of these heavily racial or ethnic districts is anathema.

Maybe we should give up our quaint 18th century attachment to geography. You could define 18 cultural or sociological groups for Illinois and allow people to have their choice of which congressional district they want to be attached to. Currently the courts have ordered that all districts must try to be the same size with a legal requirement of 10%.

You would have the GLBT district, the anti-abortion district, the anti-big government district, the fundamental Christian district, the Latino district, the NAACP district, and so forth. Coming up with the names would be half the fun. Each individual would have to submit their choices 1 through 3 since the districts would have to be equal in size. Of course some people would end up being assigned a group by random number generator since all choices cannot be honored. But since a lot of people never fill out any forms, there should be a lot of people left over.

It is a "modest proposal", but the other concept would be to make it illegal for politicians to carve out arbitrarily shaped districts. They should respect existing neighborhood, metropolitan and county divisions.
thecesspit
thecesspit
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September 16th, 2011 at 11:28:42 AM permalink
Fancy playing GerryManderer?

http://www.redistrictinggame.org/
"Then you can admire the real gambler, who has neither eaten, slept, thought nor lived, he has so smarted under the scourge of his martingale, so suffered on the rack of his desire for a coup at trente-et-quarante" - Honore de Balzac, 1829
ThatDonGuy
ThatDonGuy
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September 16th, 2011 at 12:27:56 PM permalink
I don't see where in the Constitution it says that they need "districts" at all. I am a little surprised no states with more than one Representative have tried "at large" elections (where all of the candidates for all of the state's seats run against each other, and either you vote for (up to) the number of openings and the candidates with the most votes get elected (problem: minority candidates are at a significant disadvantage), or you list the candidates in preference order and they use the preferences to determine who gets elected (this wasn't feasible in large states with hand counts).

(House of Representatives / Constitution Trivia: the one remaining unratified amendment in the original Bill of Rights would limit the size of the House of Representatives to between 200 and 6000 members. I have a feeling they're not in a hurry to get that one adopted.

And I am quite familiar with gerrymandering - my old home district (which, at one time, was Senator Boxer's) included a section that was "attached" to the rest of it by San Francisco Bay, and the shortest overland distance to it was about 20 miles.)
AZDuffman
AZDuffman
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September 16th, 2011 at 2:17:12 PM permalink
Quote: ThatDonGuy

I don't see where in the Constitution it says that they need "districts" at all. I am a little surprised no states with more than one Representative have tried "at large" elections (where all of the candidates for all of the state's seats run against each other, and either you vote for (up to) the number of openings and the candidates with the most votes get elected (problem: minority candidates are at a significant disadvantage), or you list the candidates in preference order and they use the preferences to determine who gets elected (this wasn't feasible in large states with hand counts).



The Constitution doesn't but with the courts trying harder and harder to Balkanize the USA this would be a hard sell. In some places minorities can vote several times for one "at large" candidate instead of several candidates. This of course leads to the minority candidate simply having the interests of a small subset of the population and leads to more and more patronage. But heaven forbid minority candidates actually take positions that are in line with the general population so they actually get a majority to vote for them.......
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
rdw4potus
rdw4potus
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September 16th, 2011 at 3:40:10 PM permalink
Quote: AZDuffman

In some places minorities can vote several times for one "at large" candidate instead of several candidates.



I'm confused...is this sentence about the Balkans, or about the United States. If it's the latter, do you have an example where this has happened?
"So as the clock ticked and the day passed, opportunity met preparation, and luck happened." - Maurice Clarett
cclub79
cclub79
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September 16th, 2011 at 3:48:12 PM permalink
Quote: ThatDonGuy

I don't see where in the Constitution it says that they need "districts" at all. I am a little surprised no states with more than one Representative have tried "at large" elections (where all of the candidates for all of the state's seats run against each other, and either you vote for (up to) the number of openings and the candidates with the most votes get elected (problem: minority candidates are at a significant disadvantage), or you list the candidates in preference order and they use the preferences to determine who gets elected (this wasn't feasible in large states with hand counts).

(House of Representatives / Constitution Trivia: the one remaining unratified amendment in the original Bill of Rights would limit the size of the House of Representatives to between 200 and 6000 members. I have a feeling they're not in a hurry to get that one adopted.

And I am quite familiar with gerrymandering - my old home district (which, at one time, was Senator Boxer's) included a section that was "attached" to the rest of it by San Francisco Bay, and the shortest overland distance to it was about 20 miles.)



As states' populations grew and the size of the House didn't grow proportionally (at first) and then at all, the statewide at-large districts became too populous to truly represent "the people" the way the House was supposed to. But several states DID elect their Reps at-large for a while. Solid Republican and solid Dem states could try to do that in an effort to "swamp" the minority (California could go 55-0 in a polarized year where Democrat turnout could elect all 55. Local constituent service would also suffer. Even in swingy states, you could have, for example, all 14 Georgia seats from the Atlanta area. Maybe a mix of Republicans and Democrats, but the strength of the population center would propel those well-known "big city" candidates to victory while the rural areas would be overpowered. So it's not an idea likely to come to fruition.
cclub79
cclub79
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September 16th, 2011 at 3:50:31 PM permalink
Quote: rdw4potus

I'm confused...is this sentence about the Balkans, or about the United States. If it's the latter, do you have an example where this has happened?



In this NY race, each person got 6 votes. You could sprinkle them among several candidates, or give all 6 to one candidate. The thought being the minority population could elect one of their own by pooling all their votes for 1 candidate. It's really surprising this is allowed. The scariest thing is that the Judge ORDERED it. While I'm not a crackpot Government hater Conservative, it does scare me when the courts dictate things like that. How long before the population will be forced to give their votes to candidates they don't approve of?

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/06/16/hispanic-apparent-winner-unusual-ny-election/
AZDuffman
AZDuffman
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September 16th, 2011 at 4:10:31 PM permalink
Quote: rdw4potus

I'm confused...is this sentence about the Balkans, or about the United States. If it's the latter, do you have an example where this has happened?



It is called "cumulative voting" and yes, it is being used in the USA. It has been used in Amarillo lately, and is a favorite system of far-left minorities to get at least one seat on a board or council. Lots of links when you google it.
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
ItsCalledSoccer
ItsCalledSoccer
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September 16th, 2011 at 4:15:04 PM permalink
Personally, I don't like gerrymandering, but I don't really have a legal leg to stand on. If the states impose their own gerrymandering rules, that would work for me, but I can't see that ever happening.

But I thought that a max SF:LF rule would be in order. In other words, a square of side N has a SF:LF ratio of N:4. That could be anything from 1:4 to a gazillion:4, so I'm not sure what the best ratios would be for things the size of congressional districts, and some districts are, geographically, very small. But this seems to me to be the right tree to bark up.
cclub79
cclub79
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September 16th, 2011 at 4:31:02 PM permalink
Quote: ItsCalledSoccer

Personally, I don't like gerrymandering, but I don't really have a legal leg to stand on. If the states impose their own gerrymandering rules, that would work for me, but I can't see that ever happening.

But I thought that a max SF:LF rule would be in order. In other words, a square of side N has a SF:LF ratio of N:4. That could be anything from 1:4 to a gazillion:4, so I'm not sure what the best ratios would be for things the size of congressional districts, and some districts are, geographically, very small. But this seems to me to be the right tree to bark up.



I support Communities of Interest more than any geometric carving. SOMETIMES a map can look ugly but there's an effort to link common areas with common concerns.

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