How To Defeat Democracy
October 24, 2019 9:59 AM   Subscribe

“Von Spakovsky, a member of the Trump-Kobach “election fraud” commission, urged GOP lawmakers to use citizenship data to redistrict state legislatures rather than count the total populations of districts, the latter being the constitutional standard for U.S. House districts and the longtime norm for states, as well. Most state legislatures, however, could redistrict state legislative lines based on citizen population, in most cases simply by passing a statute. (Recent revelations from the files of late GOP redistricting mastermind Thomas Hofeller demonstrated that Republicans attempted to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census to gather citizenship data for this purpose.) “All of you need to seriously consider switching to using citizen population to do redistricting,” he said, asserting that the concept of “one person, one vote” was just something that liberal justices on the U.S. Supreme Court “created … out of whole cloth.” How to Get Away With Gerrymandering (Slate) Rigging the Vote : The Intercept’s 3 part investigation into the network of lobbyists, lawmakers, and financiers that push partisan gerrymandering. Supreme Court tosses challenge to Republican-drawn Michigan electoral maps. (Reuters) ( previously )
posted by The Whelk (13 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
The number of congresspeople each state gets is very clearly apportioned based on the number of people, not the number of citizens. It's right in the constitution, or rather the Fourteenth Amendment. "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed." Persons, not citizens. And it's that way on purpose, it's not some accident of language, and dates back to the original Article 1 language.

But it never occurred to me anyone would consider districting entirely on the basis of citizens, not persons. It doesn't change the number of congresspeople the state sends, but it does give bad actors more flexibility to gerrymander in nefarious ways. Yuck.
posted by Nelson at 11:01 AM on October 24, 2019 [9 favorites]


Monkeyshines like these are why the Democrats desperately need to update the century-old Apportionment Act that caps the number of Representatives. Increasing the number would reduce the constituent/representative ratio, award more representatives to high-population (and mostly Democratic) states, and give increased electoral votes to high-population states in the Electoral College, which should give them a greater lock on the presidency and reduce the likelihood of an electoral/popular vote split like the one that gave us Bush II and Trump. .

The Senate has a baked-in bias towards Republicans; Democrats must balance that bias in favor of themselves, and more importantly, the majority of the populace they represent.
posted by Gelatin at 11:42 AM on October 24, 2019 [13 favorites]




Thanks again for your efforts to make these things better known, The Whelk!
posted by JHarris at 3:30 PM on October 24, 2019 [8 favorites]


Monkeyshines like these are why the Democrats desperately need to update the century-old Apportionment Act that caps the number of Representatives.

Out of curiosity, I looked up a couple figures. The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 fixed the total number of congressional representatives at 435. The U.S. population in 1929 was 121.77 million, and today is 329.75 million.

If the number of people per representative had been fixed in 1929, at roughly 240,000 per representative, today we would have about 1376 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The least populous state, Wyoming, would have about 2 representatives (currently 1). The most populous, California, would have 165 (currently 53). (Wikipedia on per-state population levels)

These figures include D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories in the total population, so 1178 includes hypothetical representatives from these unrepresented areas. If granted congressional representation based on population under this system, D.C. would have about 2-3 representatives, Puerto Rico would have 13, and the remaining territories would collectively have about 1-2.

By U.S. Census defined region, representation would approximately look like the following:
  • Northeast (MA, CN, NH, ME, RI, VT, NY, PA, NJ): 234 reps, 17% of total (currently 78, 18%)
  • South (FL, GA, NC, VA, MD, SC, WV, DE, DC, TN, AL, KY, MS, TX, LA, OK, AR): 519 reps, 38% of total (currently 161, 37%)
  • Midwest (IL, OH, MI, IN, WI, MO, MN, IA, KS, NE, SD, ND): 285 reps, 21% of total (currently 94, 22%)
  • West (AZ, CO, UT, NV, NM, ID, MT, WY, CA, WA, OR, HI, AK): 324 reps, 25% of total (currently 102, 24%)
  • U.S. Territories (PR, GU, VI, AS, MP): 14 reps, 1% of total (currently 0 voting reps)
Now, here's an interesting thing. If you collate the data by which way each state went in the 2016 presidential election, you find:
  • Clinton-voting states: 583, 43% of total (currently 188, 43% of total)
  • Trump-voting states: 779, 57% of total (currently 247, 57% of total)
In other words, adjusting the number of representatives at the per-state level to better reflect state-level proportions of the total population would have had essentially no effect on the last presidential election. The inequity is in the winner-take-all nature of the per-state distribution of electors, not so much in imbalances of the number of electors between "red states" and "blue states." I was actually a bit surprised by this but it's what the data shows.

Now, what effect there might be on actual House representation is difficult to say exactly, but it seems clear that, as this FPP would seem to suggest, the problem is more with gerrymandering and disenfranchisement within states than with systematic under representation of the more populous states in the House due to the Apportionment Act. Personally I'm in favor of increasing the size of Congress as well (not to mention giving votes to DC and PR), but it's not clear that this is as important as solving gerrymandering at the level of the states.

Of course, if populous states each have over a hundred House districts to assign, it might become much harder to successfully gerrymander, but then it might also be easier; I can't really say for sure.
posted by biogeo at 4:27 PM on October 24, 2019 [10 favorites]


> In other words, adjusting the number of representatives at the per-state level to better reflect state-level proportions of the total population would have had essentially no effect on the last presidential election.

At the presidential level, correct. For that to be properly represented we have to get rid of the electoral college, so this is where I get to mention the National Populate Vote Interstate Compact. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North and South Carolina all have it in legislature right now. We're within spitting distance of allocating electoral votes via popular vote.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:40 PM on October 24, 2019 [11 favorites]


Strongly agree, and thank you for the reminder that I need to contact my state-level representatives to tell them to support the NPV legislation.
posted by biogeo at 4:44 PM on October 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Of course, if populous states each have over a hundred House districts to assign, it might become much harder to successfully gerrymander, but then it might also be easier; I can't really say for sure.

so this is where I get to mention the National Populate Vote Interstate Compact.


lets do all three and offer statehood to PR and DC and see what happens

even if PR should, realistically, be at least two states.
posted by The Whelk at 9:33 PM on October 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


I had to stop reading this yesterday because it made me despair so much. Citizens keep passing anti-gerrymandering laws, and politicians at the state level keep trying to undo them.
posted by rednikki at 1:46 AM on October 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think a federal law banning gerrymandering needs to be the top priority among Democrats assuming we get a trifecta in 2020.

Of course then the Kavanaugh Court will instantly declare that law unconstitutional, that's a given now, but we can at least take that and work from it and try to use it to rally more votes and as justification for gerrymandering the shit out of California and any other state with a Democratic majority.
posted by sotonohito at 6:46 AM on October 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Federal guidelines for election policy, contingent on funding, would be the closest thing we could legislate minus a constitutional convention and updating the constitution. However given Trump I could people wanting to do something to ensure a never again once he’s out of office.

Motor Voter registration and vote by mail would be a huge change. Require districts be picked by the one side slices, one side picks method (although that doesn’t prevent two established parties coordinating to prevent a third party from forming).

While we’re at it 6 week election periods, campaign finance reform, corporate money isn’t free speech, and a pony.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:02 AM on October 25, 2019


If the US had voting districts that elected 10-20 at a time using either MMP or STV with PR, the landscape of US politics would look entirely different. There wouldn't be a party craven beholden to the far right nutjobs through primaries. Moderates could truly be a political force in the country while the left could take its ball and go home and vote green without ruining it for the rest of us.

The Senate also really should have been two representatives per 350,000 population with a minimum of two. At the start of the union it would have allowed the smaller states not to be dominated by larger states but also allow for the power to shift as the union grew. This would have meant two for Virginia at the start but end up with 24 senators today. California would have 113. Wyoming? Two. This would be far more fair than the system we have today (and far more politically flexible) but I doubt anyone is going to want to monkey with the Senate the way the game is being played right now.

Foresight is 20/20. Ah well.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:51 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


North Carolina’s Congressional Gerrymander Is Dead (Mark Joseph Stern, Slate)
North Carolina’s congressional gerrymander is dead. A state court ruled on Monday that the map, which is skewed in Republicans’ favor, likely violates the North Carolina Constitution and may not be used in the 2020 election. The only question now is how long Republicans hem, haw, and dawdle before conceding defeat and redrawing the illegal districts. Importantly, Republicans will not be permitted to stall past the election; the court made clear that it will delay the 2020 primaries to guarantee a lawful election.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:13 PM on October 29, 2019


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