Do We Really Choose?
Gerrymandering and malapportionment
Effect of exit polls on voting patterns
Thomas Jefferson once said: "I could think of no worse example for nations abroad, who for the first time were trying to put free electoral procedures into effect, than that of the United States wrangling over the results of our presidential election, and even suggesting that the presidency itself could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box." II. Gerrymandering and Malapportionment
The famous Baker v. Carr ruling, “one person one vote”, unfortunately has not come to fruition. Gerrymandering and malapportionment are still as common, if not more common, than in years past. According to David Samuels and Richard Snyder of Cambridge University, the highest levels of malapportionment are found in large, democratic countries with bicameral state legislatures. The United States happens to fit that mold perfectly .
According to a study called “Unfair Advantage”, supported by the League of Women’s Voters and Citizens Union, “Only 29 of 212 legislative districts (14%) [of New York] are within one percent of the ‘ideal size.’” The ideal size of a district is mainly determined based on population. The report also found that district lines were drawn in a way that reduces the competition in the state assembly races. According to their report, “Only 25 of the 212 legislative districts (11%) have close enrollments. The populations of the rest favor one party or another by a wide margin.” The control of both of New York’s houses has been quite constant over the last several years. Since 1982, only thirty-four New York state legislature incumbents lost their election. The votes of both republicans in “democratic districts” and democrats in “republican districts” have been made meaningless.
Gerrymandering, a specific type of malapportionment, is effective due its the “wasted vote effect.” The wasted vote effect is defined as the packing of the opposition into one district, thereby “wasting” as many of their votes as possible. As evident in the picture below of the district breakdown of Columbus, Ohio, many districts are arranged in strange shapes in order for the “wasted voter effect” to work best. In this case, Ohio’s District 7, a district heavily occupied by democrats, was stretched into a clamp-like shape in order for it to encompass as many democrats as possible. The republicans who controlled the state legislature at the time of the redistricting pushed all of the democrats together in order to limit the democrats’ influence. In District 7, the Democratic nominee would probably win be a margin of around 75%, while the Republican nominees would win both Districts 12 and 15 comfortably. While the democrats originally would have had 60% voting power in all three district and the republicans 40%, after the gerrymandering the democrats have 96% voting power in one district and 20% in the other; the republican have a 4% voting power in District 7, and 80% in the other districts (percentages are fabricated but are used to express the point).
According to a projection made by the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council, if there were no more gerrymandering, there will be a rapid increase in voting in almost every single state. The projection was based on an earlier finding of theirs, that people are less likely to vote in elections that have large margins of victory, and gerrymandering is the major cause of those large margins. They projected that the voting in Louisiana would increase 59%, while the voting in New York would increase 50%. It is definitely true that people are much less likely to vote when they think that their vote doesn’t mean anything. 11 million people, according to the projection, have chosen not to vote, due to the lack of competitiveness caused by gerrymandering. With 11 million more people voting, those races that currently are runoffs,...
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