Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Better Than Gerrymandering
Much has been said about how Americans gave a majority of their votes to Democratic House candidates, but redistricting allowed the GOP to preserve its control over the chamber. Interestingly enough, for quite some time a number of states actually had no districts and elected all their reps at-large, meaning it was quite likely that the entire Congressional delegation would be made up of a single party.
Imagine: if states did that universally today, Obama would probably have a 277-158 supermajority in the House.
Single-member districts became the norm, however, in 1842:
[I]n every case where a State is entitled to more than one Representative, the number to which each State shall be entitled...shall be elected by districts composed of contiguous territory equal in number to the number of Representatives to which said State may be entitled, no one district electing more than one Representative.
Of course, despite what the Constitution says...
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for...Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations...
On a related note, LGM takes on the idea of a "six-year itch" regarding Presidential party midterm losses. That dynamic would certainly be altered if we went back to at-large districts, although the parties adapted to the 1842 legislation pretty well. I wonder if that would change turnout as well--nowadays midterms don't generate the same interest as Presidential years, but in the early days of the party system when there were general-ticket elections it was higher, presumably because there was more at stake?
The experiment continues...
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