Monday, January 21, 2013



Two or three days ago I learned that although the Republican Party had elected a majority of Representatives to the House, in fact the total popular vote for the House was majority Democratic.  The Republicans achieved victory in 2010 and 2012 because many State legislatures were dominated by Republicans and they arranged the district boundaries, after the Census of 2010, to achieve Republican electoral victories.  It's interesting to compare the results of the election on the make-up of the Senate with that of the House.  The Senate can not be gerrymandered by State legislatures, even though the representation in the Senate gives preference to voters living in small States, such as Vermont and Alaska.  (Small here refers to population, not area.)

In a few States voters have gotten rid of legislative gerrymandering by putting the setting of district boundaries in the hands of non-partisan citizen commissions.  This reform is not easy to achieve in many States.  The reform has to be accomplished either by an act of the legislature itself (very unlikely!) or by initiative (difficult in many States).  Some gerrymanders are so blatent that federal courts have voided them because they violate the federal laws regarding boundaries of Representative districts.  However, these remedies are based on the idea of creating districts in which "minorities" will be able to elect members of their own group.

A better remedy would be a federal law - perhaps an amendment to the Voting Rights Act or perhaps an Amendment to the Constitution - that requires that an acceptable scheme for electing Representatives is one in which the partisan make-up of each State delegation is close to the partisan vote in the most recent election.  This result can be accomplished either by a non-partisan commission to establish boundaries or by electing the entire State delegation at large by proportional representation.

In the mean time, let us not hesitate to remind the majority leaders of the House that their majority is based on a rotten borough system of representation, and that they do not have a moral mandate to carry out some of their more egregious changes, such as replacing Social Security and Medicare with voucher or private savings plans.

I welcome your comments.
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