Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Redistricting

Such an unsexy topic. How do you create lasting party majorities in Congress? Gerrymander the crap out of your state in order to capture all of your geographically loyal supporters into your districts. And do so in a fashion that spreads them strategically, so as not to waste votes on larger-than-necessary landslides or futile attacks on strongholds of the opposition.

Why should you care? Because it means the existing political parties get to stack the deck in their favor, usually dependent on who's in power at the time redistricting rolls around. I live in the Fifth Congressional District of Illinois, a shape not consistent with any of the geometry I learned in high school. By my (admittedly haphazard) count this district has 257 sides, which would make it an irregular dihectapentacontakaiheptagon. If I had to guess, this shape came into being with an agenda attached. And that agenda means that my vote, and hence my voice, is being magnified or diminished based on someone else's prerogative. In other words, it's not fair.



So what to do? I had a productive shower this morning, and that's what got me thinking about the subject. While I fully realize that this may not be original, I thought that instead of letting it be arbitrary, we could create a restriction on the number of sides (lets say 6 max) a congressional district can have. Irregular state and natural boundaries (significant rivers, mountains, canyons, etc.) would only count as a single side. Districts would have to be nearly equal in population, and would have to remain contiiguous. This would still allow for long-narrow districts that might be distorted, but I think I'd leave that at the discretion of the lawmakers.

And what would this do? First, it would force candidates and Representatives as a whole to be more responsive to all of their constituents. With incumbency less assured, it might require a greater feel for compromise than what exists in this currently hyper-partisan political environment. And with a diffusion of localized special interests, the need to bring home the pork might be lessened to an extent. But most of all, it would simply be more fair. And that's a big selling point for me.

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