Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Alternative thoughts on district drawing and Gerrymandering

The drawing of districts is a long held tradition meant to distribute power. Even Ghengis Khan drew districts for his generals to hold and manage. In the United States, we have drawn up state boundaries, counties, school districts, city limits, and electoral districts from which groupings of people coalesce to cooperate together, even if they are largely uncooperative.

This makes sense to an extent. It allows for a distribution of resources to be combined for the mutual benefit for those involved. Some give more, some take more, but it is the idea of pooling resources together for the overall benefit of the population that is the guiding principle here. It is what has allowed our species to flourish across the planet and then to protect ourselves from individuals who have sought to do harm against us and those we have allied ourselves to.

Electoral districts, though, are not meant as a pooling of resources, but of a balancing of power in a place where equitable distribution of wealth has never been a thing. It is meant to give a voice to people who ought to have similar plights based on the region they live. Unfortunately, this is a vestige of our past where people were scattered about the countryside and the population was comparatively low.

Nowadays, cities may have half a dozen electoral districts. Each of these districts, depending on who is in charge at the time, have boundaries that define who is represented. This represented group may be a microcosm of the population of the city, state, or country or it could be grouped to have a population of similar people. These similarities could be geographical, neighborhoods, cultural, religious, immigrant community, race, language, or some other grouping. Some may be based on political affiliation. All of these groupings are described as Gerrymandering in deference to Eldridge Gerry who was governor of Massachusetts in 1812 and is viewed as the founder of redistricting.

Gerrymandering has become this recurring beast that can have drastic effects upon the political landscape. It cuts through cities and counties dividing neighbors and neighborhoods along seemingly indiscriminate lines. 

Surely there is a better way

What other options do we have in regards to grouping people to vote together for legislative representatives to Congress? Well, that is a tough one. There really is not a "better" way. There must be an equitable representation by each representative in order to ensure that no one group has more power than another. This still happens as a result of who they are representing and the time that they have served as a representative. Nancy Pelosi, for example, represents roughly the same number of people as any other from the state of California, but she has been around a while and represents some big money - much of San Francisco - thus has considerably more power than any other from her state.

Think for a moment, how would you group up a population of people to be represented at the federal level of the legislature? Maybe start off with a representative from each major city and then group regions. At what point does a suburban town not fit in with the metropolitan area? Oh, you didn't realize that most "major" cities that you think of are actually metropolitan areas? Yes, Boston only has a population of a bit more than 600,000 people - as does Baltimore, Denver, Seattle, and Nashville (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_population). So that probably doesn't work all that well.

(I need to put more stuff down, but I don't have much time to sit writing - I was waiting in the pharmacy for this one.)

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