Class Warfare Blog

October 6, 2017

Supreme Court Takes Up Gerrymandering

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:20 am
Tags: , , ,

There was an article in the NY Times today with the title “How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science” which coincides with a Supreme Court case regarding hyperpartisan gerrymandering of voting districts. The two are related; I will explain.

The Constitution requires there to be a census every ten years (the first was in 1790 and there were almost 4 million citizens) and immediately after each, the lines of all federal voting districts need be adjusted because our political representation is weighted by population. The House of Representatives districts are both by state and by population, but basically the current situation is roughly that the US population is divided by 435 and that gives a number of people that are needed to make a congressional voting district. Currently, there are five states that have only one congressman (but two senators!) while California has 53 congressmen (I think). In the states that have more than one congressman, voting districts are designated. A number of states have just two congressmen and allow the entire state to be the voting district for each (as it is for all senators). In states with many congressmen, geographical districts are created and the voters in those districts decide who they want to represent them, which is where gerrymandering comes in. There is very little in the way of guidelines for this process, so the political parties have developed more and more clever ways of redrawing districts to their advantage. This the GOP did after the 2010 census. It actively focussed on winning over state legislatures, which control the redistricting process and then invented new ways to create districts which create more legislative seats for them. Basically, if a state were divided 50:50 between the two major political parties, the thinking of the founding fathers was that each party would get 50% of the representatives. But, with sufficient information, one can draw districts in which one’s opponents are heavily concentrated in a few districts, but quite diluted in many, resulting in something nowhere near the 50:50 split desired by the system.

This is the source of both the Supreme Court case and the Times article.

The information to do this district manipulation has been available for a long time but the ability to process it and draft districts to ones advantage has been quite rudimentary with the ability to see many maps from which the most advantageous can be selected has only been available recently, with the advent of computer processing. This manipulation of the process has been used not just to advantage political parties (both are guilty of this) but to disadvantage voters of color, for instance.

This new level of district drawing abilities supplies us with a solution to this problem. Instead of handing the redistricting process every 10 years to the political parties in control of each state’s legislature, resulting in political and legal battles lasting the entire decade, we can have the entire process computerized. We only need to define the algorithms by which the computer draws it’s maps and these are basically principles, principles of fairness, principles of expediency, principles of geographic location, principles of continuity, etc.. So instead of a city of Democrats being lumped into a single district and the entire rest of the state carved up into Republican districts, the city can be segmented into districts, mixed with suburban votes, resulting in a distribution of legislators close to the distribution of voters in each party, what was originally intended.

When the Constitution was drafted this wasn’t possible. In fact the political parties didn’t exist per se and many of the framers did not want them and their influence in the first place. Well, we do have them and we need to curb their anti-democratic urges and now we have the ability to do this, easily, without resorting to bipartisan commissions, etc. This is something that should be as regular as the posting of the annual schedule of a sporting league and not a running political battle decade after decade, requiring the frequent intervention of the courts. This is a bureaucratic task, not a political one.

 

4 Comments »

  1. Mr. Ruis,
    I nearly laughed at your sentence stating that there is very little in the way of guidelines regards gerrymandering. Um, excuse me sir, but this old, broken down former Marine was like “no screaming shit!’ on that line.
    Actually, me being sarcastic again, there ARE guidelines with regards to gerrymandering. The guidelines, if we dare use that term are—the party that holds the majority in a given state gets to set the “boundaries” for voting districts. See, there actually ARE guidelines. Of course they are total crap, but still……
    I have no other qualms or nits to pick with the rest of this post, but, oh man, that one line just hit this cynical/sarcastic old SOB squarely in what is left of my brain.
    (FYI, yeah, I used to sing in here as davidambrose66. Why the change? New blog, new name, just because. No offense intended, but I got an email that some were going to follow my old, disused blog)

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — October 6, 2017 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

    • I really meant to say there are few federal guidelines for redistricting, leaving the process to the states. They could have settled the matter for ever by simply stating that whatever the districts are being drawn the distribution of delegates/representatives must be as close to the census divides as possible. They they would have been designating the task, not the outcome. (Basically, you can do whatever you want as long as: a, b, c, etc. withone of those being the above mentioned criterion.

      On Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 12:39 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 6, 2017 @ 1:10 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with you on your comment to mine. The ting is, in this country, the US of A (or as I have been calling it since it became the “homeland) {i prefer homie land} ‘Merikkka, the politicians ever agreeing on something so simple is, well way beyond a snowball staying cold in a blast furnace at a steel mill.
    I really would like to be less cynical about the (not so very) old US of A, but I just can’t quite get there. Maybe if I lived to be 250, but I have no desire to get much past my upcoming birthday.

    Like

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — October 6, 2017 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

    • Unfortunately true.

      On Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 9:34 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — October 7, 2017 @ 9:10 am | Reply


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