elections: Down With the EC

The March 6th issue of The New Yorker is chock full of election shenanigan reportage. First, my favorite columnist, Rick Hertzberg, had an article on an effort to rid our country of the electoral college.

Needless to say, without the electoral college, Gore would be our president, we wouldn't be in Iraq, and we'd have a lot more dough to throw around for transit and economic development projects.

Hertzberg elegantly covers the power structure of the election reform debate:

There’s a traditional view that without the Electoral College Presidential campaigns would simply ignore the small states. It hasn’t worked that way. The real division that the Electoral College creates, in tandem with the winner-take-all rule, is not between large states and small states but between battleground states and what might be called spectator states. Of the thirteen least populous states, six are red, six are blue, and one—New Hampshire—is up for grabs. Guess which twelve Bush and Kerry stiffed and which one got plenty of love, long after the primary season? Size doesn’t matter. At the other end of the spectrum, the three biggest states—blue California, red Texas, and blue New York—were utterly ignored, except for purposes of fund-raising.

Minnesota should be on the forefront of this movement.


Then, later, there's an article on the Texas redistricting battle, which is now at the center of the Tom DeLay prosecution. Redistriting is one of the main forces behind the undemocratic inflexibilty of our Federal government -- the re-election rate of US House incumbents is on the wrong side of 95%.

Here's an excerpt:
By 2000, Republicans controlled the governorship and the State Senate, but Democrats still had a majority in the Texas House. A deadlock between the two legislative bodies prevented Texas from adopting any redistricting plan, and the conflict ended up in federal court. The following year, a three-judge panel, ill-disposed to take sides in a political fight, ratified a modified version of the 1991 map, with two new seats awarded to high-growth districts.

Minnesota is actually fairly competitive, with a bunch of CD's that could go either way (e.g. 7, 3, 1, 2). The most ridiculously gerrymandered states are those that had "the trifecta" -- Governor, House, and Senate -- during the decade redistricting. Minnesota has rarely (if ever?) fallen into that category.

Unfortunately for Democrats, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio were all in completly Republican hands after the 2000 census. That means there's very little chance of a change of leadership in the US House until after 2010, and that would only happen if those states have a "balanced" government after the census.

It's too bad that issues like these (instead of the will of the voters) determine who controlls our government.

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