lunes, 26 de noviembre de 2012

Representation – A Story not Told Enough


In Arizona voters chose to vote for Republican congressmen over Democratic congressmen by over 200,000 votes.  Yet in Arizona the election results are 5 Democratic congressmen and 4 Republican congressmen.  In California, nearly 60% of votes for congressional representative went to Democratic candidates; the congressional delegation for California is 12% points higher than those results at 72%.  Connecticut’s delegation is 100% Democrats, even though they garnered as a whole 65% of the vote in that state. 
That is not the intention as laid down in the Constitution.  The idea behind the House of Representatives is that they should represent proportionally the people of their state, make each representative respond approximately to the same amount of people nationwide[1], and to be frequently held accountable by its diverse constituency, in order to listen to them better.  The Framers did not take into account the practice of gerrymandering. 
With a wink and a nod, both parties have allowed this practice that serves their self interest, disenfranchising voters right and left by making “secure” districts for either side.  It is also a practice that distorts the message that voters give with their ballot.  In another one of his great misleading whoppers, Paul Ryan stated that the results for the house of representatives validates the republican’s message, that in fact it gives the House Republicans a mandate to implement the so called “Ryan Budget,” and that president Obama has no mandate:
Asked whether President Obama has a mandate on taxes, Ryan told ABC News' senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl that the House Republican majority is proof that the president does not.
"I don't think so, because they also reelected the House Republicans.”[2]
Ryan, the wonk, does not really expect anyone to look at numbers beyond the results.  His statement is equivalent to saying that in Arizona the democratic house delegation has a mandate to implement Obamacare.
Nationally, the total vote for congressional candidates was nearly 166.6 million.  Of this total the breakdown was 48.86% Democrats and 48.58% Republicans (the rest is third parties).  So in absolute numbers Democrats won the vote for congressional representation.  In an ideal representative world, the nationwide breakdown for the 113th Congress would be 218 Democrat, 217 Republican; definitely not a major win for either side.  But because of gerrymandering, the actual election results makes the 113th Congress be 54% Republican and 46% Democrat (234 R, 201 D), a difference of 33 delegates, and numbers which qualify as a mandate under any analysis.  This gerrymandered distortion is wrong, and that wink and a nod gives a black eye to democracy.  A perversion of the intention of the Framers of the constitution, perpetrated in the name of creating mutually acceptable “safe districts” for each party.
The effect of gerrymandering state by state:

Proportioned
Elected
Difference
G-Index

Rep
Dem
Rep
Dem
Rep
Dem

Hawaii
1
1
0
2
-1
+1
50.00%
Idaho
1
1
2
0
+1
-1
50.00%
Maine
1
1
0
2
-1
+1
50.00%
New Hampshire
1
1
0
2
-1
+1
50.00%
Rhode Island
1
1
0
2
-1
+1
50.00%
Connecticut
2
3
0
5
-2
+2
40.00%
Oklahoma
3
2
5
0
+2
-2
40.00%
Nebraska
2
1
3
0
+1
-1
33.33%
South Carolina
4
3
6
1
+2
-2
28.57%
Arkansas
3
1
4
0
+1
-1
25.00%
Kansas
3
1
4
0
+1
-1
25.00%
Maryland
3
5
1
7
-2
+2
25.00%
Ohio
8
8
12
4
+4
-4
25.00%
North Carolina
6
7
9
4
+3
-3
23.08%
Indiana
5
4
7
2
+2
-2
22.22%
Massachusetts
2
7
0
9
-2
+2
22.22%
Pennsylvania
9
9
13
5
+4
-4
22.22%
Oregon
2
3
1
4
-1
+1
20.00%
Virginia
6
5
8
3
+2
-2
18.18%
Kentucky
4
2
5
1
+1
-1
16.67%
Alabama
5
2
6
1
+1
-1
14.29%
Michigan
7
7
9
5
+2
-2
14.29%
New York
10
17
6
21
-4
+4
13.10%
Minnesota
4
4
3
5
-1
+1
12.50%
Missouri
5
3
6
2
+1
-1
12.50%
Wisconsin
4
4
5
3
+1
-1
12.50%
Arizona
5
4
4
5
-1
+1
11.49%
California
21
32
15
38
-6
+6
11.32%
Florida
14
13
17
10
+3
-3
11.11%
Illinois
8
10
6
12
-2
+2
11.11%
Tennessee
6
3
7
2
+1
-1
11.11%
Washington
5
5
4
6
-1
+1
10.00%
New Jersey
5
7
6
6
+1
-1
8.33%
Georgia
8
6
9
5
+1
-1
7.14%
Texas
22
14
24
12
+2
-2
5.56%
Alaska
1
0
1
0
0
0
0.00%
Colorado
4
3
4
3
0
0
0.00%
Delaware
0
1
0
1
0
0
0.00%
Iowa
2
2
2
2
0
0
0.00%
Louisiana
5
1
5
1
0
0
0.00%
Mississippi
3
1
3
1
0
0
0.00%
Montana
1
0
1
0
0
0
0.00%
Nevada
2
2
2
2
0
0
0.00%
New Mexico
1
2
1
2
0
0
0.00%
North Dakota
1
0
1
0
0
0
0.00%
South Dakota
1
0
1
0
0
0
0.00%
Utah
3
1
3
1
0
0
0.00%
Vermont
0
1
0
1
0
0
0.00%
West Virginia
2
1
2
1
0
0
0.00%
Wyoming
1
0
1
0
0
0
0.00%

Gerrymandering allows for a gain of 14 representatives for the Republican party and a corresponding loss of 14 to the Democrats, a gap of 28.  The actual difference in the 113th Congress is 33, the other five won fair and square by quirks in districting and state allocation, not gerrymandering.

Taking away those quirks, if proportional representation is applied state by state as opposed to nationwide, congress would have 220 Republican congressmen and 216 Democratic congressmen, a total difference of 4.  Still not the nationally calculated breakdown indicated above (218D/217R), but closer to representation than what we have now in Congress, and quite definetely not a mandate.

The highest index level (>25%)[3] of gerrymandering for democratic districts occur in the states of Hawaii (which may be an outlier on account of geography), Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maryland, favoring the democrats by 6 representatives.  As for the republicans, with the same factor of 25% or more, the most gerrymandered states were Idaho, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas and Ohio, awarding republicans 12 more congressmen than they would have in better proportioned districts.  Of the 50 states, only 15 have delegations that reflect the proportional vote of their electorate.[4]
Those Framers had an idea of what they were doing.  The idea that your congressman is your closest representative in the federal government is a good one.  The amount of representatives in Congress is almost unwieldy, but still manageable –despite the seeming aimlessness of the last few years; and the apportionment after the last census was fair.  It is the redistricting that distorts the system. 
Other countries use total votes for each party and assign congressional seats according to a party roster, ensuring that the percentage of votes received by each party is reflected in the make up of the representative body.  Representatives-at-large, based upon one per average size of district, ensure that minority parties get a voice in the assembly.  If that were the case in the US, the Libertarian party and the Green party would have at least one representative in the House.  But such a system beholds the representative to the party bosses that made the list instead of to the voters who actually vote for them. 
As it has been said, our democracy may not be perfect, but it is better than many.  It is the gerrymandering perpetrated by both parties that corrupts the constitutional ideal.  It may be up to that third branch, the Judicial, to look into the abuse by the Legislative.  Because of the national scope of the issue, it would be the Federal Executive, through the Justice department and applying voter laws such as the Civil Rights act, that takes the case to the courts.  Wishful thinking, but what American ideals are all about.  Complacency on this matter will only make Congress and its dysfunctional nature worse, by creating more secure seats that silence and disenfranchise voters.  The clock is ticking.  On 2020 new apportionments and redistricting will redraw the map.  It should be a better map.



[1] That current number is approximately 650,000 inhabitants and 280,000 voters per congressional district.

[3] Calculated as a percentage of the favored difference of the respective party over the total number of congressional districts in the state.  For example, if a party should have received 5 representatives in proportional allocation and it received 7 it has a favored difference of 2.  If the total number of districts is 10, then the gerrymandered index level is 20%.

[4] The numbers do not consider turnout for effects of representation.  California, for example, has an extremely low turnout.  Its average total vote per congressional district was 181,957, almost two standard deviations below the national average of 267,793.  In addition to turnout there is the down the ballot vote.  The vote for president was 121.8M, while the vote for representatives was 116.5M, more than 4.3% less.  But representatives are beholden to those who vote, so turnout is a factor that should be discounted for this analysis.  Every vote does count.

No hay comentarios.:

Publicar un comentario