I’ve just done something that is a little out of character for me, which is to write a letter to someone in authority. The funny thing is that I spend a few minutes video chatting with my dear old mother in England every day, and whenever she has a bee in her bonnet about some shenanigans her local council is getting up to, I always tell her to “write a letter,” so now the pen is on the other foot, as it were.
One thing that really sticks in my craw is the practice of gerrymandering, which — as I noted in in my blog Gerrymandering is a Stain on our Democracy — is the dark art of establishing a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. For example, the graphic to the right depicts a few of the different ways in which 50 precincts can be apportioned into five districts, each containing 10 precincts.
Of course, gerrymandering isn’t new — it’s been implemented by both the Democrats and the Republicans for many years, but it seems to be growing more egregious as time goes by (see The 12 Worst House Districts: Experts Label Gerrymandering’s Dirty Dozen).
Sad to relate, we should all be poised to be presented with some of the most gross, ghastly, and grievous gerrymandering we’ve ever seen in the coming years. This is because district lines are redrawn every decade following completion of the United States census, which means this process will commence shortly after the results of the 2020 census are made available.
It’s not like this is an insurmountable problem. We now have access to incredibly powerful computers, mathematicians have developed multiple algorithms that are applicable to this type of conundrum, and we have exceptionally clever data scientists who love nothing better than tackling this sort of situation.
One issue is that the individual states determine their own redistricting methods, which can therefore vary from state to state (sometimes the methods that are employed vary within a state). In turn, this means that redistricting isn’t something that can be enforced by the Federal Government.
My idea, which I just communicated in a letter to President Biden, is to try to persuade Congress to set up a Department of Redistricting that is dedicated to supporting the states in their redistricting efforts, but only when such help is requested.
Such a service should be funded by the Federal Government and provided at no charge to the states, thereby making it easy to adopt. Those states that did avail themselves of the service could subsequently boast that their redistricting efforts were “Certified and Endorsed by the Department of Redistricting.” By comparison, states that refused to take advantage of the service could be labeled as such and — if the people were educated as to what this means and why it is important — those states could expect to be asked some pointed questions by any citizens who fall under their jurisdiction.
What do you think? Am I living a pipedream? Does such a department already exist (if so, why isn’t it more effective)? Do you have any thoughts you’d care to share?
As far as I’m concerned, all maps should be made up of Hexagonal shaped areas, with population numbers in each area. These should then be combined into larger Hex areas of equal population. No silly shapes, only Hex shapes allowed. This then becomes a district – period. Bodies fall where they fall, and voting is then fairly distributed accordingly.
I have to admit that this would be aesthetically pleasing if nothing else, but I’ll wait to see what others have to say 🙂
Gerrymandering is just one of the many problems with our political system which has abandoned serving Americans in favor of increasing their own political power and wealth. Having said that, I like Hexagons too.
It’s amazing to me that member of congress can start out with the same amount in the bank as me (i.e., nothing) and come out 20 years later as millionaires — am I the only one who things there’s something fishy here?
Term limits would solve a lot of problems. Also, what other job in the known universe provides a pension after 5 years. And to top that, if you are over 62 and and “served” 5 years, you get a full pension. I missed that email when growing up.
I agree — term limits would be a great idea — plus have you seen all the benefits they’ve awarded themselves over the years???
Yes. In 1969, Senator Dirkson said, “a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money”. Now it is “a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty you’re talking real money.”
Maybe we should require that any tax money that is applied to government benefits is to be divided by the number of taxpayers and be tax-deductible in the next year. Crap that won’t work, they will just increase the taxes the next year to make up for it. We are doomed.
It scares me to think about it (said Max, sadly)
10 Perks Congress Has That You Don’t | The Motley Fool
Here are the greatest benefits for Congress listed in this article:
1. A base annual salary of $174,000
4. Weakened insider trading restrictions
5. Up to 239 days off
6. Congress receives health-care subsidies under Obamacare
7. A better retirement plan
8. Members of Congress fly free
10. A $1.2 million to $3.3 million allowance
It also included Free Airport Parking, Free Gym, and Death Benefits. Those sound reasonable and I don’t know why they were included. Should have been “7 Perks…” IMHO.
Good grief — now ownder they don;t have a clue what it’s like to have to pay thousands of dollars a month for health insurance if you are self-employed.
This is a tricky problem, and even if you take the 50 squares, each of them are not homogeneous. I do like the idea of a non partisan federal department to help with redistricting… But they would need to make sure they use lots of data (census) and other data to make sure that each top level district groupings actually reflect the demographics… and then politicians can’t think of a classic Republican vs Democrat. If a State or District is “going Blue” or “Red” then that just means that the different parties need to figure out what and why the change is happening and take up causes that the populations actually care about… if you as a politician are not listening and acting in the best interest of your constituency, then don’t cry and cheat with gerrymandering… do something to win back the folks you represent. If we have demographically represented districts, then maybe that would work.
That’s the main point — to base everything on trusted data, to make sure that everything is truly representative, and to make sure everything is transparent so that everyone can trust the results.