Its Summer 2017, with the Midterms right around the corner and the 2020 race and census not too terribly far off, its time to look at an unsexy but important topic: Gerrymandering. Gerrymandering, the process of designing politically advantageous Districts for state and federal representatives. In 2010 the Republicans used their surge election to their advantage and built in advantages in their districts to make it harder for Democrats to regain the House. To be fair, Democrats do this in states they control as well, so this is hardly a partisan issue. Adding further complication is that sometimes, gerrymandering is designed to serve an altruistic purpose, getting minority groups represented in Congress when they otherwise might not win.
But Gerrymandering has become a problem, one where many feel any benefits are vastly outweighed by the problems. So what do we do? The Constitution mandates a census every 10 years to apportion House seats… So what do we do?
Enter here the Fair Representation Act (FRA), which would completely overhaul the way in which we elect members of the House of Representatives. In short, the FRA introduces two main things, ranked voting and multiple person districts. This would dramatically change and potentially open up the election of house members.
First, ranked voting. Ranked voting would allow for people to rank their preference in candidates. No longer would a district have to take who ever won the majority. In essence the top 3,4 or 5 candidates would get elected. This does away with spoilers, wherein an independent or wealthy person sways the vote away. This also increases partisan participation. For instance, if a district is 45% Republican and 40% Democratic and 15% Libertarian, in most election years, a Republican would win. This leaves essentially 40% of the population without a real voice, since most congress members cater to their base unless there is a close election.
Ranked voting would allow for each of these constituent groups to potentially have a voice. A Republican and Democrat and maybe even a third party candidate would be elected in this regard. This means that everyone is better represented.
Multiple candidate districts sound weird, especially for someone like myself who is so involved with and interested in American politics. But multiple candidate districts are necessary to the FRA. By making districts larger, you retain the same 435 number required by law, but you retain a better political mix. Districts would be more equally divided and the ranked voting would allow for multiple parties to represent one district. This would make the House more representative and cut down on partisan ship and essentially remove the motivation for gerrymandering.
Republicans and Democrats have shots at winning at least one seat in these large districts. But also, minority groups can coalesce around a candidate of their choice and they can also emerge and increase representation.
Maybe the FRA isn’t the panacea for Gerrymandering. Maybe it is. I certainly think it looks promising. But something needs to be done.
For more information on the FRA please visit the link below