In an alternative universe . . .

.  .  .  the GOP won the 2012 Presidential election.

In 2012, if all the 50 states had apportioned their electoral votes as Nebraska and Maine did, Mr Romney would have beaten Mr Obama by 276 to 262 despite having lost the popular vote by nearly four points.

And the Dems are really pissed.

Of course the GOP did win the House, despite getting fewer total votes in House elections.  (And for exactly the same reason; Nebraska and Maine apportion electoral votes by Congressional district.)  They were rejected by voters at all levels, but gerrymandered into a share of power.


Tags:

 
 
 

39 Responses to “In an alternative universe . . .”

  1. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    24. February 2013 at 07:50

    There are no essential differences between the two parties.

  2. Gravatar of Tommy Dorsett Tommy Dorsett
    24. February 2013 at 08:27

    Yes, but didn’t the Rs win 30/50 governorships?

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. February 2013 at 08:44

    Tommy, The GOP is a very different animal at the local level. Much more reasonable. I’d add that most small states are GOP areas–what is the population of those 30 states?

  4. Gravatar of Squarely Rooted Squarely Rooted
    24. February 2013 at 09:15

    Tommy & Prof. Sumner,

    The trick here is also to avoid the ecological fallacy. States and congressional districts are inherently meaningless political constructs, useful only insofar as they facilitate political order in any kind of just way. Just remember this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dakota_Territory#Dakota_Territory_and_Statehood

    “On a national level, there was pressure from the Republican Party to admit two states to add to their political power in the Senate.”

    And it worked! Just like, if you sewed them back together into one state today, they would arbitrarily receive half the representation in the United States Senate than they did yesterday.

    If you look here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_strength_in_U.S._states#Historical_party_strength

    Democrats have only held a majority of governorships for 5 of the last 20 years despite holding the Presidency for all but eight of those years. And look at the skew: Democrats have never held 30 governorships in those 20 years whereas the GOP has held 30 or more in 6 of them (including the current year). This is mostly due to the interplay of polarization and urbanization in the context of rigid arbitrary district borders.

    Now for some fun: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/04/messing-with-texas.html

  5. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. February 2013 at 09:45

    Btw, this validates the wisdom of the guys who wrote our constitution. They deliberately set out to constrain power. Even power won in democratic elections.

  6. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    24. February 2013 at 09:46

    They did not gerrymander their way into power. The 2010 census gains gave them maybe 5 seats. The dems constituency is simply inefficiently distributed. On the congressional level. It’s the opposite on the presidential level. Obama would have had to lose by 2% in popular vote to lose the electoral college.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  7. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    24. February 2013 at 11:33

    Krzys, The fact that the 2010 census gave them 5 seats has no bearing on my argument. You might be right about the 2% Dem advantage in the EC, but it assumes an equal swing in every state, which is far from certain. And of course it also has no bearing on my argument.

    Square Rooted, Obviously I agree with most of your argument. But the 8 out of 20 years comment is pretty meaningless. Indeed that means a 3/2 split in 4 year presidential terms, which is the closest possible mathematical outcome. I.e. not statistically significant. But yes, as I noted the small states tend to lean GOP.

    Patrick, I don’t see how gerrymandering constrains power. It seems to me it simply thwarts the will of the voter. As Krzys pointed out the GOP could have easily won the popular vote while losing the EC. Would that sort of constraint on power improve governance? I don’t see how.

  8. Gravatar of J J
    24. February 2013 at 11:42

    Here’s Wonkblog on whether the 2012 house victory for Republicans can be attributed to Gerrymandering: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/17/redistricting-didnt-win-republicans-the-house/

    All these discussions, including discussions of whether Gore should have won the 2000 election (recounts in Florida aside), forget the significance of campaigning. If the presidential election were based on a popular vote, then surely Bush and Gore would have campaigned differently. Similarly, if districts were drawn differently, then money and important speakers would have gone to different places. Good candidates would have run in different districts. It’s difficult to construct counterfactual election results since we don’t even really have a good grasp on the importance of money and campaigns.

  9. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    24. February 2013 at 13:06

    @ Patrick R. Sullivan,

    To say that our Founding Fathers wanted one party to be able to manipulate election rules to have minorities out-represent majorities is wrong…and insulting to their memory.

    You must be confusing their desire to prevent the tyranny of the ( ELCTED ) majority with the results of Gerrymandering.
    They designed the government to blunt the power of the elected majority …NOT to keep the majority from winning majorities.

    Our Founding Fathers were well aware of gerrymandering. They saw it as an EVIL… one that they were helpless to stop. ( WE no longer are helpless to stop it by the way. )

    The FF who is name is lent to the practice because he was the first to uses it… Elbridge Gerry… Refused to even sign the Constitution … ( His decision had nothing to do with gerrymandering )

    So NO… Gerrymandering is not an example of the sacred wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
    In fact it is an example of their INCOMPETENCE. An incompetence that we no longer need be afflicted with.

  10. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    24. February 2013 at 13:15

    krzys says… “The dems constituency is simply inefficiently distributed.”

    Please, tell me. What are the relative efficiencies of drawing lines on the map one way or an other ?

  11. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    24. February 2013 at 13:27

    Many here are clearly unaware of the design of the republic they live in. The us is a federal state, conceived as a union of states. That’s why the states have police/plenary powers, while the federal level has only enumerated ones ( or at least used to). And, yes that was by design. Franklin himself argued tha splitting power in such a way that no central authority would have control over everything would secure liberty in the most effective way. The success of the system bears him out. We have the oldest political system in existence and the protections for freedom are much stronger than, say, in Europe.

    It’s not terribly important if the popular will is being thwarted or not that way. The system was not designed to maximize the exercise of popular will.

  12. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    24. February 2013 at 14:34

    Krzys what was the system designed for specifically as you seem to know.

    My reading on it is that the different founders had differnet understandings of what they hoped to achieve-Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, so it may not be possible so boil it down to one view.

    To the extent though that the popular will wasn’t important it has developed to be more important over time. That’s the viture of the “living document” view of the constitution. We can always decide we disagree with any partiuclar intention as understood by the Founders.

  13. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    24. February 2013 at 17:30

    They were rejected by voters at all levels…

    Not so! At the state level the Repubs had their best election in 60 years!

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/23/us/state-government-control-since-1938.html

    …but gerrymandered into a share of power.

    Now, why would the Democrats be any worse at gerrymandering than Repubs? They aren’t, and there’s plenty of evidence to prove it. (See California. Any claim that either major party is seriously “better” or “worse” than the other at any important part of polticking has a serious credibility issue unless accompanied with an explanation of *why* it is so.)

    What you are instead seeing here is the fundamental fact that urban areas are **overwhelmingly** Democratic while non-urban areas are only generally Republican.

    Thus, in places like here in NYC where the voters are 90% Democratic (and independents like me are looked upon by some as being next to fascist) millions of Democratic-majority votes go “wasted”.

    But don’t assume that changing the way these votes are counted would change election results in the end. Change the election rules and you’ll change the way the parties play the game. (Change the World Series rules so the team with the most runs total in seven games wins, and team managers will manage very differently). The Repubs’ excellent state-level results suggest they’d have done fine in the House whatever the rules were.

    And, there is *no* voting system anywhere that doesn’t have comparable or worse inequities and inefficiencies that the locals complain about. (Every vote counts, none go “wasted”, in Italy.)

    There are a number of interesting podcasts at Econtalk about voting patterns and the evolution of voting systems. I liked this one…

    Rodden on the Geography of Voting

    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/10/rodden_on_the_g.html

    “If you examine the location of factory jobs today in relation to voting districts that vote Democratic, where Obama is ahead on the polls, there’s none visible, it appears random.

    “But if you look at the location of factory jobs in the late 19th Century compared to districts that vote Democratic today, the relation is near 1-1.”

    How about *that*? Tachyons emitted from 19th century factory equipment create 21st century Democrats.

  14. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    24. February 2013 at 18:17

    Gerrymandering may not have been as important as one might think for the 2012 House results.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/17/redistricting-didnt-win-republicans-the-house/

    Also, I would be careful mounting a campaigns-and-money argument, as the campaign, at least for Presidential elections, may not be nearly as important as people tend to think.
    http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2013/01/08/obama-toes-the-line/

  15. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    24. February 2013 at 18:19

    Gerrymandering, generally speaking, favors Dems.

    Why? Well, when white racism became unfashionable and we got rid of all those Democrat innovations like poll taxes, segregation, the KKK, etc, the Democrat Party transitioned smoothly to providing coercive favors to nonwhites instead. Among their new toys are laws that say you can draw a map that favors minorities, but not one that favors whites.

    Ar some point we’ll be a country that officially judges people on the content of their character, but we aren’t there yet. Maybe another couple generations, so the legacy of extractive institutions like slavery fades a bit.

  16. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    24. February 2013 at 18:23

    Patrick, I don’t see how gerrymandering constrains power. It seems to me it simply thwarts the will of the voter. As Krzys pointed out the GOP could have easily won the popular vote while losing the EC.

    The “rules of the game” matter! It is very naive to assume that election by popular vote instead of the EC would simply reverse the result in such a case, to fulfill “the will of the voter” — because it would be an entirely different election in a very different political system.

    The current EC rules drive candidates and parties to campaign to win the moderate, swing states, in the middle of the political spectrum, which have mixed economies and populations (Ohio, Florida, etc.) This drives the parties towards the center, and to moderation — and this is *good*, I’d say.

    OTOH, “most votes wins” would drive the parties to focus on their very different base areas and to inflame their bases to maximize turnout. This is polarization, and it is *bad* I’d say. We had elections fought along these lines in the 1850s, and how’d that turn out.

    At the **least** elections would be *entirely* different. During this past presidential election, here in NYC I saw nary an advertisement, as hundreds of millions of dollars of them inundated Ohio and a few other states with near 50-50 voting constituencies.

    But if it had been “most votes wins”, the Democrats would have flooded NY and its 80% Democratic electorate with zillions of dollars of highly “motivating” get-out-the-vote tales of Repub outrages, with the Repubs doing the inverse in Texas and their areas. Which party would waste money on the could-vote-either-way middle?

    I have a hard time seeing how that would be “good” compared to the current reality, or how it would better satisfy the will of the voter … but it *absolutely surely* would be entirely different from today.

    So one just *can’t* say that “with ‘most votes wins’ Gore would have been president”. Well, one can, obviously, as so many do — but it is very naive, because the election would have been fought entirely differently, as would have all those preceding it, which means history would have been different … would Clinton have been president to begin with??

    As to the Founders, they were well up on this type of thinking. The Roman Republic used election districts that combined separated urban and rural areas exactly for the purpose of forcing those who sought election to go down the middle of satisfying both, instead of whipping up one to go beat on the other. The Founders were highly influenced by the history and institutions of the Republic, knew them well, and applied their knowledge in ways that are forgotten today — forgotten even in our law schools, I can tell you.

    I’m not claiming any endorsement from the Founders for our current political system — if they saw our modern world most of their heads would explode. Except for Franklin, who would be thrilled and fit right in as a media mogul celebrity. But the point stands.

  17. Gravatar of J J
    24. February 2013 at 18:26

    Jim Glass – The idea that Republicans gerrymandered their way into a house majority (whether or not it’s true) is based not on the claim that Republicans are better at gerrymandering than Republicans, but rather on the claim that Republicans controlled more state governments when districts were drawn. Indeed, the same was true the last time districts were drawn. Whether or not redistricting had a significant impact on house elections, it is true that Republicans conveniently have done particularly well in state elections in the years leading up to redistricting the past two times.

  18. Gravatar of J J
    24. February 2013 at 18:26

    Are better at gerrymandering than Democrats*

  19. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    24. February 2013 at 18:44

    Mike Sax,

    I don’t claim some great insight, but the results are pretty clear, especially in terms of securing liberty compared to the unitary European systems.

    The bigger point is that many people forget the basic structure of the federal system we live in , and why the federal powers are limited and enumerated. And no, living constitution is a code word for usurpation of power.

  20. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    24. February 2013 at 18:54

    To the extent though that the popular will wasn’t important it has developed to be more important over time. That’s the viture of the “living document” view of the constitution. We can always decide we disagree with any partiuclar intention as understood by the Founders.

    The Founders had a clear mechanism for changing the constitution, it’s called “amendment.” Anything less is a step back to all the abuses of dictators, elected and otherwise, for whom the law was whatever they said it was (they literally were “living constitutions”).

    Notice we don’t really pass any amendments anymore. So much easier to just appoint a judge who can emanate a penumbra. A small loss, not the end of our country by any means, but significant.

  21. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    24. February 2013 at 20:00

    @ Patrick R. Sullivan,

    To say that our Founding Fathers wanted one party to be able to manipulate election rules to have minorities out-represent majorities is wrong…and insulting to their memory.

    You must be confusing their desire to prevent the tyranny of the ( ELCTED ) majority

    Patrick is entirely right that the Founders had very little belief in, and a whole lot of mistrust of, “the will of the people” as far as popular vote majority goes, and precious little commitment to popularly elected majority rule.

    Read the Constitution, it exists only through the HoR, voters for which then were subject to all kinds of eligibility requirements that blocked average people from voting, while it is replete with mechanisms blocking majority rule. With zilch popular vote input to the Senate, Executive or Judiciary.

    The Founders were explicit about this, they *did not want* the masses in politics. They constantly talked about and warned against “the evils of party and faction” — to our ears that sounds like rhetoric, but they really **meant it**, entirely literally.

    George Washington goes on at length about the evils of political parties and the political movements they embody in his Farewell Address, and he wasn’t kidding. He was talking about what we call Democrats and Republicans.

    He also is very clear about the danger of parties centered in different regions motivating their bases against each other to get out the vote….

    “In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations … One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations”

    This is exactly the danger that “most votes wins” presidential elections would inflame — Democrats whipping up their urban left-wing voters against Republicans whipping up their rural right-wing voters — and which the Electoral College system mitigates by driving both parties to try to win the median independent voter in Ohio. The Founders knew what they were doing here. As did the Roman Republic, in its functioning days.

    Stable political parties as we know them in our world were entirely alien and unknown to the Founders — to them parties were the tools of ambitious political factions and demagogues used to whip up the mob to seize power.

    They were quite explicit that their concerns were liberty and political stability, and that to achieve them they had founded a republic that institutionally balanced competing power factions and political interests, *not* a democracy to give the vote to the mob. They wanted the average person *out* of politics. Washington said the best political role for the average citizen was to be disinterested in politics and act like damp earth on the politically ambitious.

    So invoking the Founders in any defense of “the will of the people”, “one white man one vote”, or any other such modern democratic concept is really far off the mark — for all that we do it over and over in this day and age, for our own rhetorical reasons.

    Those democratic political ideas grew over the following couple of generations, and overwhelmingly at the state and local political levels. In our time with the federal government running everything we overwhelmingly look back at history as being embodied in the federal government of the past. But that’s a mistake too, the federal government back then was very small and devoid of influence on the average person.

    For the first 60 years or so, the really interesting political, economic and legal growth and innovation overwhelmingly occurred at the state level. That’s where our government as a democracy as we know it developed. Not courtesy of the Founders.

  22. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    24. February 2013 at 21:19

    Jim Glass – The idea that Republicans gerrymandered their way into a house majority (whether or not it’s true) is based not on the claim that Republicans are better at gerrymandering than Republicans, but rather on the claim that Republicans controlled more state governments when districts were drawn.

    Which means they did very well at the state level, which is inconsistent with the claim that they won only by gerrymandering.

    Republicans conveniently have done particularly well in state elections in the years leading up to redistricting the past two times.

    Indeed, and as I pointed out via the link above, they just had their best election in 60 years(!) at the state level, which is totally inconsistent with the idea that “they were rejected by voters at all levels”.

    Another point about gerrymandering that is very commonly not appreciated when it isn’t being plainly misrepresented is that it is much more about protecting incumbents than anything else, and much less about expanding a party’s power than many imagine. In fact, it not infrequently works *against* the expansion of the power of the party doing the gerrymandering.

    A really blatant, in some circles infamous, example is California after 2000. The Republican party in the state had collapsed and the Democrats *could have* redrawn districts to exterminate them and grab a lock on the House of Representatives, while wiping them out of state level posts too. But that would have required a lot of districts with contested elections, granted with good Democratic majorities, but hey, if there’s a contest you can always lose, and if there are Republicans in the district then you could always lose in the future in a down year. Who wants risk?

    So instead the Democrats redrew the districts to pass on the opportunity to gain seats — and gain national and state party power — and instead redrew them to secure an iron lock on their own personal re-elections forever. Which of course meant increasing the Republicans’ security too, because increasing the concentration of Dem voters in Dem districts forced the same in Repub districts.

    To quote Wikipedia on the result:

    This move proved completely effective, as no State or Federal legislative office changed party in the 2004 election, with 53 congressional, 20 state senate, and 80 state assembly seats potentially at risk.

    That’s 0 for 153! Now *that* was gerrymandering.

    See, Dems are pretty good at it. But the goal of it isn’t to expand party power, the party being composed of other people, it is to preserve one’s own power.

    Politicians are like everyone else, they look out for #1, their own personal selves, first. All their other virtuous goals and objectives come second.

    I’m not defending gerrymandering — though it is one of those “free market” activities in the political market that goes back pretty much to five minutes after the creation of political markets, and is as resistant to being stamped out as any other market activity driven by powerful market incentives.

    But when the partisans of one party damn the other for engaging it in — please, they’ve both been up to their armpits in it since their creation.

    In fact, upon getting familiar with gerrymandering, one realizes it is really much “worse” than those who are appalled upon first considering it realize. I’m confident that 90+% of all elections in the USA are effectively if not explicitly uncontested — with things even *worse*, fewer contested, at the state and local level than the Congressional.

    And that’s with Congressional re-election rates of 2008: 94%, 2006: 94%, 2004: 98%, 2002: 96%, 2000: 98%, 1998: 98%… etc.

    But it’s tough to beat 0 of 153!

    However, having fallen under the sway of Douglas North & Co, I am of the belief that elections do not make democracy and modern democracy does not consist of elections, so I’m pretty sanguine about it all.

  23. Gravatar of Full Employment Hawk Full Employment Hawk
    25. February 2013 at 00:18

    If the Republicans win the next Presidential election as a result of deliberate Gerrymandering when a majority of the people voted for the Democratic candidate, such a President will lack all legitmacy and a majority of the people will rightfully regard him as a dictator.

  24. Gravatar of Full Employment Hawk Full Employment Hawk
    25. February 2013 at 00:23

    It is high time that we made sure that the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote becomes President. There is an easier way to achieve this than the difficult route of a constitutional amemendment. States simply have to apply the rule that the candidate who wins the popular election gets all of the state’s electoral votes. Once enough states have imposed this rule, the winner of the popular vote will be assured the election. But individual states should not wait until enough states have agreed to this to institute the rule. If some of the states institute it right away, that will produce popular support in other states to approve it too.

  25. Gravatar of Full Employment Hawk Full Employment Hawk
    25. February 2013 at 00:30

    “the Founders had very little belief in, and a whole lot of mistrust of, “the will of the people” as far as popular vote majority goes, and precious little commitment to popularly elected majority rule.”

    That is because they were part of the plutocracy of that time. Most, if not all, of the signers of the Constitution in the southern states were owners of slave plantations and many of the norther ones were wealthy businessmen and attorneys. The people clearly constituted a danger to their priviledged positions in society.

  26. Gravatar of Full Employment Hawk Full Employment Hawk
    25. February 2013 at 00:37

    “but didn’t the Rs win 30/50 governorships”

    A lot of them were won in off-year elections, where the voters who turn out to vote are more conservative than in national elections. In addition in 2010 the Democrats went into the election with the unemployment rate stalled at over 9%. When unemployment is high, voters NORMALLY show their dissatisfaction by voting he incumbents out. The only reason that this did not work in 2012 was because the unemployed and uneremployed working people did not believe that a guy with offshore accounts in Europe and the Cayman islands would look out for their interests. More generally, the Republicans had moved so far to the extreme right that a majority of working people concluded that the Republicans would do them harm, rather than good. A more moderate Republican party would have won big.

  27. Gravatar of Arthur Arthur
    25. February 2013 at 07:08

    Not sure if the GOP really gerrymandered into a share of power.

    Maybe district voting just underweights urban vote everywhere.

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. February 2013 at 09:13

    Don’t have time for the gerrymandering debate, in any case I think most people misinterpreted the point. I wasn’t accusing the GOP of doing anything immoral–they work with the system we have in place. I don’t like the system.

    And I do understnad that Dem votes are more geographically concentrated.

    Bill Ellis nails it:

    “Please, tell me. What are the relative efficiencies of drawing lines on the map one way or an other ?”

    They should be drawn in such a way that the popular vote gets reflected in which party wins.

  29. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    25. February 2013 at 09:27

    Arthur says…
    “Maybe district voting just underweights urban vote everywhere.”

    I have seen this line of thinking a lot on this thread and others.
    I don’t get it.

    We can draw the lines on the map any way we like. The districts can be any shape. They can be drawn to accommodate any goal. There is no hinderance inherent in the geographic distribution that prevents drawing districts that will better represent the voter. (Picture an extreme example… a map with 5 tiny districts in the cities and one big district that encompasses the rest of the state.)

    One big improvement would be for states to abandon the practice of letting the legislators draw the maps and instead turn it over to a bi partisan commission appointed by both parties.

    Also…I would like to see equal standards and practices applied to all states.

  30. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    25. February 2013 at 09:30

    Tall Dave,

    “Notice we don’t really pass any amendments anymore.”

    We passed more ammendments in the last 50 years, than the 50 years before that, or the 50 years before that.

    10 ammedments right out of the gate.
    2 quickly followed.
    Nothing for 50 years.
    3 following the Civil War, and nothing for the rest of the 19th century.
    6 in the first half of the 20th century, but 2 delt with prohibition and cancel each other out. So 4 with permanence.
    6 in the second half of the 20th cetury.

    I would expect we will have 6-8 new ammendments by 2050, and they will come in waves.

  31. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    25. February 2013 at 09:46

    States rights.

    whatcha gonna do?

  32. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    25. February 2013 at 10:27

    Anyone remember Scalia’s rationalization for stopping the recount in Florida ?

    ” by a 7-2 vote, ruled that the Florida Supreme Court’s method for recounting ballots was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The reason for this was the lack of equal treatment of all the ballots cast in Florida.”

    Excerpt From the Decision….

    … History has now favored the voter, and in each of the several States the citizens themselves vote for Presidential electors. When the state legislature vests the right to vote for President in its people, the right to vote as the legislature has prescribed is fundamental; and one source of its fundamental nature lies in the equal weight accorded to each vote and the equal dignity owed to each voter. The State, of course, after granting the franchise in the special context of Article II, can take back the power to appoint electors. See id., at 35 (“[T]here is no doubt of the right of the legislature to resume the power at any time, for it can neither be taken away nor abdicated”) (quoting S. Rep. No. 395, 43d Cong., 1st Sess.).

    The right to vote is protected in more than the initial allocation of the franchise. Equal protection applies as well to the manner of its exercise. Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another. See, e.g., Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 665 (1966) (“[O]nce the franchise is granted to the electorate, lines may not be drawn which are inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment”). It must be remembered that “the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen’s vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555 (1964).

    Bold mine.

    If you have never read the whole thing…It is actually very short and simple as these things go… Maybe you should. (I think that no matter what your position on the Constitution you will end up seeing some glaring inconsistencies in the logic.)

    It is no wonder that the conservatives made sure to declare that the ruling on Bush V Gore was NOT to be applied to any other case… that it did not set precedence. And it is no wonder that the decision was “Per Curiam” meaning that no one justice can be held accountable for any particular part of the decision if he chooses to remain silent on it.

    But their admonitions that the case be ignored do NOT have to be heeded. Their lack of logic in this case should be exposed by invoking it in cases where it may apply and thereby force the court system to defend it … or fail to.
    And It would apply to many of the voter rights cases that will come out of the present atmosphere.
    But will it be invoked?… Not likely. All of the precedence can be found elsewhere. Why make a supreme court justice angry at you ?
    But If the conservatives on the court want to rule in opposition to their reasoning in Bush V Gore… Their own words should be thrown back at them.

  33. Gravatar of Chuck E Chuck E
    25. February 2013 at 13:11

    We have gerrymandering here in Illinois with each decade’s census (Illinois’ population decreases). The districts drawn by the Republicans in the early 2000′s favored the incumbent Republicans. You should see how contorted they had to draw the lines of the districts. Now, the Democrats had their chance as of the 2010 census. The districts are contorted EVEN further. Some connecting city precincts to the suburbs with lines only one street wide! I wish we could apportion it by counties and leave gerrymandering behind for good.

  34. Gravatar of Full Employment Hawk Full Employment Hawk
    25. February 2013 at 14:40

    “We have gerrymandering here in Illinois”

    The Gerrymandering in the Blue states partially offsets the Gerrymandering in the Red states. Obviously the Democrats are going to fight back as much as they can in the states they control. The practice is undemocratic no matter who does it and should be stopped.

  35. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    25. February 2013 at 14:57

    They should be drawn in such a way that the popular vote gets reflected in which party wins.

    The popular vote *is* reflected in which party wins — in each and every election district, popular vote is 100% determinative. The popular vote **always** wins.

    What you are saying is that you want popular vote majorities “spread out” in some way to be reflected differently in “winning” on some kind of larger scale.

    But that is not as simple as it sounds, and the Law of Unintended Consequences begins applying. (As do the consequences of “Grass is Greener” assumptions.)

    Again, it’s like looking at the World Series and saying…

    “It is not right that a team that hugely outscores the other should lose (Pirates beat Yankees while outscored 27-55). Who scores the most runs should be reflected in which team wins”.

    Of course scoring the most runs is absolutely determinative in which team wins game-by-game. So this is really arguing that game wins shouldn’t determine the series outcome, that instead aggregate runs should win — which is a **fundamental** change, which changes not only the outcome but also how pitchers pitch, batters bat and managers manage.

    To say control of the House should go to the party gaining the most of the popular vote likewise requires a fundamental change such as abandoning first-past-the-post elections for proportional representation. Which means elections would be contested entirely differently. Though even so, as the Repubs did so well at the state level, by changing the way they played the game correspondingly they’d likely have won the House anyhow.

    While one must ask: is proportional representation really better? Italy has proportional representation, how does it work out for them?

    Making presidential elections by popular vote instead of the EC would produce the **really fundamental** change of turning parties away from pursuing the median voters in middle-politics states to trying to whip up their partisan bases in the most polarized states — **exactly** what Washington and the Founders warned against when they created the EC mechanism. Is that really a good idea?

    Again, the popular vote most definitely is reflected in who wins elections as things are. The issue is *how* it should be reflected in election outcomes.

    And the USA’s electoral system — for all the stones that get thrown at — is the longest-successfully-running and most stable electoral system in the world, as it is. A fact that should not be overlooked or slighted (not even in the pursuit of greener grass).

  36. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    25. February 2013 at 15:41

    Jim Glass

    You do realize that you are claiming “…the popular vote most definitely is reflected in who wins elections as things are.” In the face of the fact that Gerrymandering results in a house that is repub controlled even when dems get more votes ? And that it would take an 7 or 8 point advantage for the dems to gain control of “The Peoples House” ?

    You do, don’t you ?

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. February 2013 at 08:24

    Jim, In national elections the “district” should be the entire country. In state elections the entire state. Imagine a Governor being elected based on electoral votes of counties!

  38. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    28. February 2013 at 12:59

    “We passed more ammendments in the last 50 years, than the 50 years before that, or the 50 years before that.”

    And zero within the last 40. Not. Even. One.

    The last significant amendment passed (the 26th) was proposed in 1971. That’s not even within the lifetimes of most people alive today.

    The 27th was actually proposed over 200 years ago and was a very minor one about Congressional pay. The 25th merely clarified the succession.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_amendments_to_the_United_States_Constitution

  39. Gravatar of TallDave TallDave
    28. February 2013 at 13:30

    FEH,

    “The practice is undemocratic no matter who does it and should be stopped.”

    Actually gerrymandering is quite democratic — it means we’re drawing lines according to the will of the majority party. Ending gerrymandering would be “undemocratic” — and that’s often a good thing.

Leave a Reply