Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reforming Gerrymandering (Part 2)

Unless you're one of the several thousand incumbent politicians who support job retention without actually having to accomplish anything, you realize that the system is broken.  If you don't yet understand the patently unethical political practice known as gerrymandering, click here:

So, for the rest of us, the system is in desperate need of change.  But how best to accomplish that?

In California, 2 ballot measures up for vote in less than a month, deal with this directly, Propositions 20 and 27.

Propostion 20 does 2 important things: (1) Adds the mandate of re-drawing congressional district boundaries to the commission created by Proposition 11 in 2008 and (2) would define a "community of interest" as "a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation." These shared interests could be such things as urban areas, industrial areas or agricultural areas.

Proposition 27, if approved, would repeal California Proposition 11, which authorized the creation of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.  It would also modify the provision in California law that says that proposed congressional districts can't be subjected to a veto referendum. 

Thus, supporters of reform would be advised to vote YES on 20 and NO on 27.  If you're one of the 5000 or so incumbents, well then vote the opposite way.

The most commonly advocated electoral reform proposal targeted at gerrymandering is to change the redistricting process.  Under these proposals, an independent and presumably objective commission is created specifically for redistricting, rather than having the legislature do it. This is the system used in the United Kingdom, where the independent Boundary Commissions determine the boundaries for constituencies in the House of Commons and regional legislatures, subject to ratification by the body in question (almost always granted without debate). A similar situation exists in Australia where the independant Australian Electoral Commission, and its state based counterparts, determines electoral boundaries for federal, state and local durisdictions.

The problem with a commission is that it is dependent on the individuals selected.  Many "independent" commission are about as objective as the O.J. Simpson jury.  The appointments are politically based to engineer a certain outcome.  Thus, unless the selection process is achieved without bias, an independent commission can lead to the exact same result.

Another approach, and one that appeals to a numbers junkie like me, would be to employ some sort of mathematical formula or other pre-determined methodology.  An approach advocated by a group called uses a mathematical algorithm.  It is described here:  The site also contains maps of current districts to demostrate the incredible shapes that the current system creates.  Check out the one that looks like a Halloween mask for a real horror show.

There are a myriad of other objective and unbiased means to drawing districts.  In all likelihood, they all have certain benefits and drawbacks, but the differences are, in the grand scale of things, immaterial.  The most important thing is consistency.  Any approach that is unbiased and consistency applied, will, by definition, end the impact of gerrymandering.

The definitive documentary on Gerrymandering, produced by Bill Mundell, is newly released for theatrical showing.  The website for this film can be accessed by clicking here:  The commercial can be accessed by clicking here:

If you want any of your votes to EVER count, perhaps the most important vote will be the ones you cast on Propositions 20 and 27.  If you want to see the bums get thrown out, here's the way to do it.

Marko's Take

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