Gerrymandering: the legal way to rig an election

Posted by: Phineas on October 31, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Why bother stuffing ballot boxes and getting felons to vote when you can just draw the district boundaries to ensure your guy or gal wins? Via Reason.TV, here’s an interview with Bill Mundell on the dangers of gerrymandering:

It may not be the sexiest political issue of our time, but it is of fundamental importance to the health of our democracy. Allowing legislators to draw their own districts creates a tremendous conflict of interest between creating districts that accurately represent a community of interests and thus fairly represent the people of an area, and the self-serving needs of politicians.

This is a particular problem in California, where “safe seat” (or “incumbency gerrymandering,” as Mundell calls it) boundaries almost guarantee the reelection of a state or federal legislator. The problem is so bad that almost every member of California’s congressional delegation gets reelected in election after election, even though Congress has a miserable approval rating. And the situation with our state legislature isn’t much different.

We took a big step to fix the problem in 2008 by passing Proposition 11, which took the power to draw legislative districts away from the legislators and gave it to a citizen’s commission. This year, we aim to finish the job by passing Proposition 20, which would do the same thing for congressional districts. But, you guessed it, the oligarchy has struck back, getting Proposition 27 on the ballot. If passed, this measure will eliminate the citizen’s commission created by Proposition 11. It is nothing less than a swinish attempt by the legislature and their allies in the House to seize power from the people and preserve their hand-drawn fiefdoms.

And you wonder why I call California’s legislature “arrogant.”

For the sake of genuine representative democracy in California, it is essential that Proposition 20 pass and Proposition 27 fail.

Put an end to gerrymandering. Break the oligarchy.

UPDATE: J.E. Dyer at Hot Air’s Green Room has an excellent post on seven votes that may determine California’s future.

UPDATE 2: Also take a look at an article in the LA Weekly about Props 20 and 27 and why you should give a rip. It includes a map of my entry into the California Hall of Shame for Shameless Gerrymandering, CD 23, which is 200 miles long and, at one point, only 100 yards wide.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

RSS feed for comments on this post.


5 Responses to “Gerrymandering: the legal way to rig an election”


  1. Carlos says:

    The problem in CA is the same as everywhere else – it is the incumbents’ fault for the mess we’re in, so let’s throw out all the incumbents and start over. Except mine, ’cause he/she is ok.

    Typically irresponsible, it’s always the other guy’s legislator who’s driving the madhouse at whatever state house it is. Or the Capitol.

    And some think I’m being mindless when I say, “Throw all the trash out!”

    That’s not mindless, it’s a response to “everyone’s but mine.”

  2. I couldn’t agree with this more, Phineas — yet all the conservative campaign mailers I’ve seen have urged no on 20 and yes on 27. Why is that?

  3. Phineas says:

    Maybe they’re from the CA GOP or incumbent-aligned groups who want to keep safe seats?

  4. J.P. Travis says:

    Gerrymandering and incumbent mailings are the initial forms of election fraud. Like you said, they might not be as sexy as talking about illegals registering and Democrats stuffing ballot boxes and backroom forging of absentee votes, but they are crucial issues. Most congressional districts in the USA are never in play because of gerrymandering, so democracy limps along on less than one leg. Even in a landslide party-switch like this year, most incumbents will WIN. That is simply sad.