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Thomas, Speaking for only one commenter it was your earlier post that inspired me to joke with Neil as to whether the pint had been liberally passed around before I arrived.

Of course no one here is going favor the reprehensible, gutter crawling tactic of acting in the manner of the original Gerry Mander to afflict the outcome of an election.

There exists NO way that a purposefully sleazy gerrymander can enhance what remains of our democratic process.

Sequel: Creative thoughts but go back to the idea of a REPRESENTATIVE representing a constituency. The (ideal) task of our political system is to input the needs and frustrations of the people, but to carefully consider the merits of changes vs status quo and what direction change should seek.

Take CA. Obviously CA, SD and SF would elect all the At Large Reps..... ha perhaps an assorted bunch of glossy movie stars, surfers? and businessmen? Hahaha! like the uber nasty D. Issa? But then who reps Imperial Valley or Salinas farmers? Those trying to protect Lake Tahoe? The redwoods and sequoia's up where "nobody lives?"

IF......... as Posner hopes would be easy, we could "outlaw gerrymandering" we'd do it in a heartbeat unless our efforts were stymied by an underhanded gerrymander.

Neil: I'm often tempted by the "computer solution" Great to think we could write the "app" and let it handle the next dozen census years. But the criteria, say of our state is something like "substantially similar, contiguous et al" plus we're still (or were) one of the eleven states having to pass all the rest through Voting Rights Act measures to prevent prejudicial racist effects.

Soooooo, the ""non-partisan"" kinda... commish takes a run at it, somehow with substantial bias favoring the Gov's views, a computer goes to work, then we go to court, redraw and go to court again.

It really is not as easy as Posner would hope with the best of intent, and of course the best of intent is never the case and Gerry lives on.


Jack: I think you missed a turn when you characterized my district-less state pipe-dream as being non-representative. The Constitution doesn't identify a district as a necessity, probably because the popular election of House members satisfied that criterion. (The fact that the Constitution requires an election to fill a vacated House seat would seem to emphasize that requirement for state-level representativeness.)

I agree that the range of consequences of multi-member, district-free voting include some frightening possibilities, but thinking about them does point out the advantages of district-free voting for a single member.

In general, at-large candidates would seek votes at the level of the constituency whose support they seek. For an entertainer or religious figure, that might be statewide, non-political venues. For a major employer, that might be several localities. For a basic vanilla congressman, that would likely be close to home. To me, actually sounds like a more representative electoral process than district-based voting.

By confining people to selecting by district -- a logistical convenience that arose out of transportation issues from past centuries -- and by placing control over the shape of those districts in the hands of people whose interest is non-representatives, States have actually managed to sidestep the Constitution's very ill-defined interest in representativeness.


Sequel: I do see the one great advantage is that of it being impossible to gerry a whole state.

I've some experience on this as when I first came to Alaska state House members were elected at large within State Senate districts..... so we voted for something like 12 or so. First it was about impossible to know enough about a couple dozen to pick the "best" dozen. Next, it seems like other situations where "all are responsible" but in truth it means no one is accountable.

Well, we've single member House districts now, and it is frustrating that I live in a demographic in which fairly decent Reps from my party has held the seat for years. My vote isn't much more than a redundant "me too". Meanwhile our House, like that of the nation is dominated by increasingly wacky 'baggers and assorted rightwing whackjobs.

In fairness to your proposal WERE we to elect all of our House members at large, we'd, ha! in the changeover, have gerried a number of rural, umm....... rustics? out of their seats and moved the body closer to a fairly literate center.

So I should favor, as nationwide the move should skew to more dominance by urban and suburban and against "old Joe" who has held some rural district since Romney was driving a Rambler with a squealing dog strapped to the roof-rack.

But! I still have problems with true and accountable representation. For example if today's urban Chicago ward heeler were to drive 50 miles south folks would expect him to know corn from a hog's hindquarter and perhaps even get out of his car or something, and ha! NOT eyeing the farmer's land as a hot opp for a condo building buddy "up town".

As Tip O'Neil famously said "All politics is local" it surely is and I guess we'll have to continue to try to subdue the Gerry monster by means other than 30 CA, NY or TX reps running at large. Ha! this last has me envisioning the guy "running" all over TX for that last vote, or gawd! buying the entire TX media market?


Hi Jack : Re: "WERE we to elect all of our House members at large, we'd ... have gerried a number of rural, umm....... rustics? out of their seats and moved the body closer to a fairly literate center."

That actually sounds to me like a possibility. But an opposing idea strikes me too: wouldn't some candidate from the state be courting the rural/agricultural areas -- meaning that they would built a de facto constituency out of multiple non-contiguous areas?

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