This was sent to me in the form of am emailed extended-comment, and I thought it’d be interesting to all; the author is a longtime Commentariat(tm) member. Formatting and light touch editing are by me.
To End Gerrymandering
It’s simple. Abolish districts.
Using the eighty-member California assembly as an example: replace the 80 districts with the following:
- On the ballot there are perhaps 500 names. Vote for one.
After the election:
- Step one is discussed later.
- Step two divide the number of votes by 80. Call that number ‘E’. Anyone with at least ‘E’ votes is seated. Not only seated but they get to keep their remaining votes.
- Step three those remaining votes may be given to anyone eligible to serve in the state assembly. This step will likely end up deciding almost every state assembly member.
- Step four resolves conflicts that step three did not resolve. In this step, the ‘E’ number is reduced. Every seated candidate now has an extra vote in his remaining votes tally. (‘E’ could be reduced by one and step four repeated until all eighty members are seated. Faster fair methods exist.)
Step one is discussed here: To prevent ‘stuffing the ballot’ any candidate who does not get some small percent (perhaps 2% or 3%) of ‘E’ is removed from the candidate list and their votes are discarded before step two.
This is not a political party killer. Each political party will likely direct its candidates to stand in line by the number of votes received. Push all the votes forward and spread them back as far as they go. Party members in specific areas may wish to pool their votes to assure that at least one of their specific area’s candidates will be seated.
The threat of step four is the main reason why step three will be almost entirely successful. However, the promise of step four may allow one with 30% of ‘E’ to be seated if the other remaining candidates are seen as unacceptable by those already seated.
In addition, I ask, “What is more important: geography or ideology?” And let’s face it. If a district is D/R 60/40 then the 40 have zero voice in selecting a candidate. With the gerrymandering problem removed that 40 still has a voice. Only steps one and four discard any votes.
If ‘every vote counts’ then why don’t we stop discarding so many votes in the holy grail of district elections?
My comment on the suggestion is that it’s going to have the usual problem: the establishment wants a system that it can gerrymander. Neither party has any shame about manipulating the elections in their favor, whenever they can.
I do believe that districting schemes may have made sense in a time when it took all day on horseback to get to another town; clustering votes makes certain sense. But I doubt it was ever much more than a sop to local bigwigs who wanted to secure their grip on local power. A non-gerrymanderable/non-districted system threatens the corrupt status quo. Any system that does not preference inequality (in the US that means: racism) will meet resistance.
A political party killer would be nice. The Floundering Fathers were concerned (when it was convenient for them to be) about the danger of partisan politics. Well, they sure as hell screwed the pooch, if that was what they were trying to avoid.