Strong opinions, weakly held

An endorsement

Despite the fact that I live in North Carolina, I’m endorsing the ballot initiatives in California and Ohio that would shift responsibility for drawing Congressional districts to nonpartisan panels. In California, the intiative is backed by the loathsome Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republicans, and opposed by the Democratic party, but I’m for it anyway. The current system serves mainly to protect incumbents or shuffle things for partisan advantage, and I think it’s important for us to change the rules so that Congressmen see their jobs as something more than lifetime appointments and to encourage constituent service. I honestly have no idea how the composition of Congress would change if every state drew its districts in a nonpartisan fashion, but I believe such a system would be preferable to one where partisans sit down and shuffle precincts around with specific political goals in mind.

The Ohio plan to me seems suboptimal, with its emphasis on competitiveness rather than on grouping people by community, but it’s still better than the status quo.

Update: Mark Kleiman opposes California Proposition 77 on pragmatic terms. Kos argues in favor.


  1. Fair voting is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. Neither of these initiatives will do much to improve political diversity. Both plans will be run by politicians and for politicians, make no mistake.

    Personally, I loathe single member districts combined with plurality winners and view this as the flaw in the system. I would much rather see super districts (with 5-10 members in each district) and the use of cummulative or limited voting. Take away the power of the single member district and you don’t have to worry about how the lines are drawn.

    Cumulative Voting
    Limited Voting

    Of course, any switch from a plurality winner take all system would weaken the Democrats and Republicans…which means it will never happen.

  2. Too bad we can’t set the ratio of reps:citizens back to what it was two hundred years ago.

    The benefits would be that your rep would truely be more responsive to the wishes of the citizens she is representing, and it would be a tough sell for stupid things like the Patriot act to get through (two thirds of ~ 6,000? good luck) without being challenged by hopefully saner heads.

    The downside, of course, would be that congress would generate so much noise that it would be nearly impossible for things to get done (with only about 2,080 working hours per annum, each rep gets about 20 minutes per year to address the Congress). Which is kinda what the Founders wanted – slow-moving, bickering, and accomplishing little.

  3. The idea that judges, retired or not, are non-partisan is a bit rich…

    I also love how reform always has to start with dems losing more seats.

  4. I forgot to log in with my comments yesterday and Rafe hasn’t moderated them yet…so delete those and I’ll post some new ones 🙂

    Personally, I view the major problem in our election system as having plurality winners in single member districts. This concentrates power in the hands of the parties and in the folks that draw the districts. I would love to see super districts with 5 or so members representing each super district and some form of Limited, Cummulative or Choice Voting in those districts. Take the power out of the hands of the parties and the politicians and give it to the people.


    Bryan, anything that makes Congress less efficient is a good thing in my book! The less they do, the more money in my pocket, the less government regulation sapping the life out of commerce and the less stupid laws I have to follow!

    Pat, I agree 100%. Judges are every bit as partisian as anyone else. In NC they are elected, which makes them politicians. In other states they are appointed, which makes them lackeys for the politicians.

    As for reform starting with Dems losing seats, perhaps that is simply due to the fact that Dems (at least in the south since the reformation) have used their status as the majority party to protect their majority status? Take a look at Texas as an example of democratic gerrymandering. In 1992 Republicans had 48% of the vote and only won 30% of the seats. In 1994, 56% of the votes for US House Reps went to Republicans who won 37% of the seats! There is only one way to explain that type of difference and it ain’t because the Democrats in Texas play fair. Notice a pattern? So Republicans pull a few dirty tricks and in 2004 they recieved 58% of the vote and won 66% of the seats. As Republicans learn how to gerrymander like the Democrats….Democrats will lose seats. You can see this pattern across southern states that historically had Democrats drawing districts, but recently have had Republicans start to gain the upper hand. Isn’t having a two party monoply grand?


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