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I recommend you read the full article The Great Gerrymander by Prof. Sam Wang [http://www.nytimes.com/...]

Wang adds up all the votes for Democrats and Republicans in a state's various Congressional districts and compares the statewide party percentages with the proportion of Congressional seats which go to each party to see the impact of gerrymandering.  Wang says, "start with the naïve standard that the party that wins more than half the votes should get at least half the seats. In November, five states failed to clear even this low bar..."

"In North Carolina, where the two-party House vote was 51 percent Democratic, 49 percent Republican".  But the state's elected Congressional delegation was, "Four Democrats, nine Republicans".  51% of the votes resulted in 31% of the seats!  

"In the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, 16.7 million votes were cast for Republicans and 16.4 million votes were cast for Democrats. This elected 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats."  In other words, Democrats got 49% of the vote [at least excluding votes for third parties] and got (almost) 32% of the Congressional seats.

In all, the Republicans made more of a difference for themselves in the 2012 election than Democratic gerrymandering, but both parties do gerrymandering and other tricks.  My first full-time job after college was in a city run by a Democratic political machine comparable to old Chicago.  That's probably part of the reason why we don't hear the Democratic Party making a bigger stink about what the GOP has done.  Still, regardless of whether the Democrats were motivated by civic desire to maintain majority rule or motivated by cynical desire to maximize the number of their own people in office, this should be a critical issue for the party.

There are a number of other mechanisms limiting true majority rule in the US.  There's the Electoral College in presidential elections, there are attempts at voter suppression or intimidation, about 1% of the voting age population are former felons (no longer in jail, probation or parole) denied the right to vote (see: http://www.dailykos.com/...), etc.  Unlimited spending by the rich to influence elections is also a critical issue.

Fair elections, fair districting, fuller freedom to vote and similar guarantees on democracy should be a top priority.  It should be a make-or-break question for any candidates you support and it should be a major effort between election seasons.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't think people understand how pernicious (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scott on the rock, a2nite, aseth

    this really is. It should be a national scandal that Democrats in the House received 51% of Americans' votes, but only 31% share of the house - by design of the opposition party. Republican efforts to "win by losing" need to be countered and thwarted at every attempt.

    They succeeded with this attempt. Where do you think they got the idea to gerrymander the Electoral College?

    •  note (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NormAl1792, sodalis, aseth

      You may have gotten the wrong impression - the 51% = 31% didn't apply to Congressional votes cast in all 50 states.  That figure applied to North Carolina.  Gerrymanding impacted the number of Congressional (and presumably state legislator) seats in a number of states.  However, it's important to get figures we tell others right so they learn they can rely on what we say.

  •  Yep; In Ohio Which Votes Near 50-50, We Send (7+ / 0-)

    a roughly 3:1 Republican delegation to the House.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:29:14 AM PST

  •  And don't forget NY (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prof Haley, sodalis, aseth, ScienceMom, dewtx

    ...where 2/3 of the voters are Dems but the State Senate is still run by Republicans. Finally this year we have a 33-30 D advantage, but somehow Democrats donated the leadership to the GOP anyway, with my Senator leading the way. Go figure.

  •  I think the districts should be redrawn (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prof Haley

    by a computer program whose only guidelines are contiguous and population number.  Don't care if the shapes are weird or if the populations very non-homogenous, in fact, I think that would be a good thing.

    Take it out of the hands of the humans because they can't handle the responsibility.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:54:53 AM PST

    •  I'm of mixed feelings about this. (0+ / 0-)

      I think boundaries should be drawn without regard to incumbancy or party affiliation. Otherwise? I'm not opposed to gathering enough minority voters into a bloc so that they get representation in Congress. For example, districts where Native Americans are in the majority, or Latinos.

      Resuming episode.

      My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

      by pucklady on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:06:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But humans write the software (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dewtx

      And therein lies the problem. :)

    •  Make It A Bidding Process (0+ / 0-)

      1. Define "gerrymandering quotient" based on some hard-number criterion (e.g. area of district divided by in-jurisdiction* area within the smallest circle containing the distict, summed for all districts).

      2. Any interested party may sumbit a map prior to some deadline.

      3. Any map with a gerrymandering quotent more than 10% (guesstimate; the actual figure may need tweaking) above that of the minimum of the maps is thrown out.

      4. The state government may then choose one of the surviving submissions.

      On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

      by stevemb on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:10:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  verification (0+ / 0-)

      whether the lines are drawn by computers or by a commission of university professors in appropriate specialties, as Prof. Wang's article indicates we can check after implementation to see the correspondence between vote % and seat %.  This evaluation of the district arrangement should be a required part of any districting, and corrective action should be required when there's a discrepancy.

  •  Blame the Dem's leadership (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    workingwords, jabney, dewtx

    It was gross malpractice for the Dem's leadership not to be prepared to wage war at the state level in the 2010 elections.   Had the Dem's been able to hold on to control of one house of seven or eight states, we would not be where we are today.   Those leaders want to blame Citizens United.  But, as pro's, they should have been ready.  Note:  we are talking about states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.   The fact that the Dem's did not react raises the question whether the 2010 losses were ok with the Dem leadership.

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