183 Comments

It is impossible to draw a proportional map under first-past-the-post if you want it to be proportional when one party wins a very large majority of the vote.

If one party is winning more than two-thirds of the vote, then the minority party needs to have very high concentrations of votes to win any seats at all. Consider it nationally - a D+33 national result would make every single district blue - TX-13 is the reddest district in the nation and it's "only" R+33. An R+33 national result would result in 17 districts staying Democratic (in order of PVI: FL-24, GA-05, MA-07, NY-09, CA-34, CA-44, NJ-10, NY-08, CA-12, CA-37, NY-05, IL-07, NY-07, CA-13, PA-03, NY-13, NY-15). I'm using Cook PVI.

Note that only three of those 17 Democratic districts are in states where the boundaries are drawn by a GOP legislature (FL-24, GA-05 and PA-03) - they're not really the result of "packing", but of the intense concentration of Democratic votes in the most urban areas, and the most African-American areas - unless I've missed one, these are all majority-minority districts and all but NJ-10 (Newark) are in the inner core of cities big enough to have multiple congressional districts.

A proportional set of boundaries would have 145 districts at least this Republican and 145 at least this Democratic. That's utterly impossible.

The most partisan district in the nation is NY-15 - D+44. If the Republicans won that seat purely on the national vote, that would be an R+44 election; that's a 72-28 national generic ballot. Under a proportional system, there should be 121 districts at least that partisan, and the most partisan district should be something like D+99.8 (and equally one at R+99.8)

Within the constraints of single-member districts of equal size that cannot cross state boundaries, you cannot get proportionality outside of a relatively narrow band around 50-50. Fortunately, US election results are almost always in a relatively narrow band around 50-50.

Require proportional results (to within a margin of error of something like 5%, ie it can be off by no more than one seat in any state that isn't California or Texas) for any statewide result where no party exceeds 60% of the vote statewide, and accept that the system will inflate statewide results above that level in terms of representation.

Massachussetts was 75-21 in 2020 to the Democrats, of course they won all nine seats.

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I just want to throw this out there for informational purposes:

The supreme court's 2019 ruling on gerrymandering is very misunderstood. The common summary of it was that the supreme court said that political gerrymandering was ok. What they actually said is that it's bad but they didn't want to make a standard to judge what is and isn't gerrymandering. However, they were very explicit that if someone came up with a standard, they would enforce it.

In particular, they were very clear that congress could come up with this standard because the constitution reads: "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; **but Congress may at any time make or alter such Regulations,** except as to the Place of chusing Senators." The supreme court decided that drawing districts fell under "manner", so congress could set a standard that states had to follow.

Now, one dirty little secret is that many (most?) states already have requirements on districts, but they're routinely ignored. For example, the Pennsylvania constitution states "Unless **absolutely necessary** no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a [state] senatorial or [state] representative district." (Article II section 16.) If you look at, say, PA state senate districts, they divide a lot more county lines than necessary. However, almost no one bothers to challenge maps under existing standards! It's insane. People want the supreme court to intervene with a new standard when not bothering to use the tools that already exist. Other seriously gerrymandered states (NC, WI, etc.) have similar laws, but again, no one bothers to use them. WTF?

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For example, here's the PA senate map with counties shown: https://www.mapsof.net/uploads/static-maps/pa_state_senate_districts_by_muni.png The districts divide counties like its their job (especially in the Philadelphia suburbs). This is so blatantly unconstitutional that it boggles the mind. But no one does anything.

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Believe it or not, the state legislative maps in Pennsylvania were originally even worse. The state supreme court threw out the original versions. https://www.post-gazette.com/news/state/2012/01/26/Pa-Supreme-Court-tosses-out-redrawn-legislative-districts/stories/201201260325

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Wow, it was so bad that the state supreme court even threw it out when the court was controlled by Republicans! I had forgotten about that.

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Didn't the Supreme Court rule last year that gerrymandering is NOT unconstitutional? (Unless protected groups are involved)

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WL is referring to the state constitution, not the US constitution.

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Any reason why expanding the House doesn't get more play? There's no obvious reason we are stuck with 435 representatives the Reapportionment Act of 1929 stuck us with. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would reduce the advantage rural states have, and it would allow major cities to have more representation proportionally.

I think the gerrymandering stuff would be tricky constitutionally for the feds to enforce, but House size is totally in their remit. I know in order to achieve constituents per representative at 1929 levels we'd need a couple thousand members, but, I don't know, it seems like an interesting idea that isn't talked about much.

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author

A lot of people on the internet seem enthusiastic about expanding the House, but I don't really understand what problem it's supposed to solve.

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I for one would enjoy a greater diversity of nutjobs filling out the benches.

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A larger House means more nutjobs, but it also means more really talented leaders.

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I'm not convinced that it's symmetric. The thing is, nutjobs are a lot easier to come by than talented leaders, and the private sector is also competing to employ talented leaders. How sure are we that there are great candidates out there just waiting for a brand-new, empty seat (that once occupied will rarely change hands)?

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With the House of Reps Luxury Dorm, of course! (Only half-kidding, MY did a good article on this two years ago: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/3/18311810/congressional-pay-salary-decline-andrew-hall)

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author

Gotta have the dorm

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What does a talented leader mean in a larger House? Who would you say are the talented leaders in the House now that we should be encouraging people to emulate?

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It would reduce the disproportionality between districts that is caused by them not being allowed to cross state boundaries (you could also solve that by allowing districts to cross state boundaries, but that would require a constitutional amendment). Montana should have 1.40 House members; Rhode Island 1.48. In fact, Montana has one (the largest congressional district) and RI has two (the two smallest). The bigger you make the house, the smaller the differences become.

For instance, if you applied a triple Wyoming rule (ie the smallest state must have three representatives), then each House member would represent about 190,000 people, and the biggest districts would be the three North Dakota ones (224,197) and the smallest the four Alaska ones (177,557.75). which is a ratio of 1:1.26, compared to the current 1:1.88 or the base Wyoming rule of 1:1.74). Of course, that would mean a house of about 1600 members, which might be a touch impractical.

It's also true that this enables more gerrymandering - the more boundaries there are, the more ability there is to fix them. But it would also allow for more concentrated, unique districts.

The big political advantage (as opposed to arguing over it a policy proposal) is that a significant increase in the number of districts would mean that there would be enough safe districts for each party for all the existing House members when combined with a rule that gerrymandering must go away.

If Masschussetts had, 15 districts, then it would be easy to have nine safe D districts for the existing members while also having a more proportional result. Though, honestly, if I were doing that, I'd just implement a statewide proportional system and add enough seats that the existing members wouldn't be affected. In a bad year, like 2010, the Democrats still got 60%; 60% of 15 is 9. All nine existing congresspeople would still be safe, there'd be three safe Republicans (20% even in 2020) and the other three seats would swing back and forth according to how people voted.

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If you think the House should be more proportionally representative, it's low hanging fruit to squeeze down the range on per-member representation count. Although I also don't know what sort of problems it's going to create; how much more power can be deferred to party leadership in the House?

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Yeah this point point makes me think what we really want is just proportional representation and increasing size can sort of help but doesn't really work, and maybe we should be thinking about more fundamental changes.

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Increasing size greases the skids for proportional representation because it means that individual members aren't voting themselves out of a job.

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By "more fundamental changes" do you mean "parliamentarism"? (I'm just being a self-parody at this point.)

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I mean I wouldn't be mad at it. I'm under no illusion that parliamentary party based elections fix everything but frankly most democracies seem to be working better (in their politics). I know some lefties kind of think the only thing standing between here and social democracy is PR but that is just ridiculous.

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Agreed that the policy results are not going to be a function of the system. PR+parliamentarism are a solution for more responsive and accountable government, since gridlock wouldn't be a thing anymore. But that won't necessarily mean that the left's policy preferences will be enacted.

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The main advantage of single-member districts elected under a first-past-the-post/plurality vote system is supposed to be that the representative has a close connection to his/her district, which in turn represents a 'community of interest'. The artificially small House creates districts that are not 'communities of interest' (like the entirety of Montana, for instance), and which are too large for it to be practical for representatives to spend much time on casework for constituents in need. By contrast, it is common in the UK for MPs to hold 'constituency surgeries' in which they deal with individual people's problems (battles with some bureaucratic entity, boundary disputes, whatever really); this seems to be much less common in the US, or else to be tilted more towards prospective donors.

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US House Representatives tend to do "townhalls" instead.

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It would be rebalance the House away from the Midwest, and in theory, could help lessen the electoral college slant against Democrats. A larger House would most likely creating new majority-minority districts in states such as Texas

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It’s not the Midwest that provides the electoral college slant. Western states are the ones that are overrepresented - unless we’re talking about two different Midwests here.

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The big factor of the electoral college slant is not overrepresentation, but the fact that the Republicans don't win 70% anywhere and the Democrats do in two of the biggest states (CA and NY). The Democrats just waste far more votes piling up huge majorities in huge states. If Texas went back to being 70% Republican and all of those GOP votes were sucked out of the midwest, it would be balanced again. Overrepresentation accounts for about 15% of the electoral college bias; wasted votes are about 50%, the rest is mostly differential turnout (fewer people vote in red states than in blue states).

The Senate slant is mostly driven by overrepresentation, but that isn't about really-small states (Hawaii, Delaware and the four small New England states produce enough Democratic Senators to balance the small Mountain West states producing GOP Senators), nor the really-big states (GOP TX and FL come close to balancing Democratic CA and NY); it's that of the rest of the states, the bigger half are mostly Democratic and the smaller half are mostly Republican (mostly in the South - states with 3-7 Reps are AR, AL, MS, SC, KY, LA in the South, plus IA, KS, NE, UT for the GOP against only CO, CT, NM, NV, OR that are blue - that's 10 red and five blue; IIRC, if you take the next 15 bigger, it's 10 blue and five red).

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Expanding the House isn't a panacea for anything but there are a number points in its favor. Many are noted in the other comments, in addition to the fact that it makes divergence between the popular vote and Electoral College less likely, though not impossible (with a larger House, Gore would have won in 2000 but Trump still would have won in 2016).

So there are enough points in its favor that the real question is, Why not? It seems the only people who have anything to fear from a larger House are current House leaders who might be replaced by new blood if something changes.

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I think a broader point is that more members means each member will have less internal power/influence and leadership will be more powerful. If you're one of a thousand backbenchers, you should definitely spend more time on social media than on developing policy chops because that will gain you more influence/power.

You could argue that the house is already like that, so this wouldn't change anything. But if you did want to change it, so that individual members had internal power outside of being one of the Speaker's favorites - this would make it very hard.

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That ship has sailed.

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Could it sail back? Or did we burn it for some reason.

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Good question, but probably not without some change in the conditions that lead to its departure, such as re-establishment of a strong committee system. Just sort of the law of groups says it is harder for one person to be influential in a crowd of 435, than to carve out a position of influence on a committee of 35.

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I think there's a big difference between having 1,000 backbenchers and like, 500. Looking at foreign legislatures, it seems like you can get up into the 600s or even 700s (looking at you French National Assembly and post-2017 German Bundestag) while retaining some degree of autonomy for individual members. The most common figure cited for US House expansion--the Wyoming Rule--would only bring the House to about 550 members, well within the normal range. While we could expect some increase in the power of leadership, it probably won't dilute individual members' power that much.

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If that rule had been adopted in 1930 instead of the 435, there would have been 1343 reps. It would only be ~550 now, but could vary dramatically in the future.

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That's fair, but you could imagine a rule of "Wyoming rule or 700 (or 650, or 600, whatever), whichever is lower."

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The problem you would be solving is having congress people we are more accessible to their voters. The access that voter has to the mayor of a city of 900k like Philadelphia is very different than the access a voter has to a mayor of a city of 200k like Stockton CA or Jersey City NJ. It would reduce the Washington is elites only argument. We all felt the Mayor of NYC is elite but no one said the mayor or South Bend was elite because he was mayor of South Bend. Also, It would help access journalism too just more people to leek stuff. That is argument for 3x the house.

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It would make the House more proportional in its representation. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyoming_Rule

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I've never been a big expand-the-House guy—I think it's too often floated as a solution to problems it wouldn't do anything to fix (like the electoral college), and it would probably be unpopular—but if the problem some Democrats have is that seats like theirs would be a smaller proportion of the new House, making the pie bigger might ameliorate their concerns.

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Perhaps you mean to say you don't see how expanding the House relates directly to the topic at hand. Obviously the problem it's supposed to solve is that it would make each member represent fewer people and, as Dave notes below, make the smallest states with one Rep.-at-Large not as disproportionately represented. And, taking us back to the topic here, it would ideally help make certain redistricting disputes easier to solve, because both parties in such cases would get what they want.

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For one thing, it allows for having an odd number of electoral college votes so that we never ever have to run into the House voting by state delegation fiasco we damn nearly had this year that almost certainly would have resulted in the end of the United States lol. A la your 2014 Vox opus.

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It could still happen if their were more than two candidates winning states

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Wouldn't it solve the problem causing reluctance to gerrymander reform? e.g., you could keep majority-minority districts without necessarily diluting the power of Democratic votes and promise to draw shiny new districts for House members who would otherwise be squeezed out by fair district maps.

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Under what circumstances and in what timeframe can you imagine that the constitution could be amended in a way that would yield a substantial political advantage for Ds?

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That's the beauty of it - number of Representatives is just a statute. Chuck the filibuster and it could be done tomorrow.

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I take the point, but the idea of pushing through a major restructuring of the House with a 50+1/50 vote after ending the filibuster...are we trying to start a real civil wqr? Because I think that would become possibility. At the least, I think there would be a strong voter backlash to this...people did not vote for this. Here's another idea...let's focus not on tactics but on strategically appealing to a wider base of people in some of the states where we used to have D senators. I mention David Shor a lot but I think he's spot on. We want sustainable change and that requires wider buy-in than currently exists.

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If doing anything to reform elections/government to make the United States more Democratic than it is would automatically 'induce' a Civil War, than we are already in a Civil War, albeit a Cold Civil War. [*My* coinage, not Andrew Sullivan's coinage, thank you.]

Democracy and/or representative government is losing, and losing pretty badly.

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You'd better be ready to fight it, then.

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"Proportional maps would lead to more rather than fewer Black Democrats winning elections simply because more Democrats would win elections, and a healthy share of them would be white."

Is this last word suppose to be black?

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Could have been meant to be "not be white"

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I'll repeat my oft-stated point: being popular and convincing Americans to vote for you is more important than fiddling with gerrymandering rules.

Between 2002 and 2020, the Democrats won the national 2-party vote for House seats five times. They won a majority of House seats four times (the exception being the 2012 vote that everyone, including Matt, focuses on, when they got a bare majority with 50.6% of the 2-party vote but the Republicans got a majority of the seats). In the other five elections, they got a minority of the 2-party vote and a minority of the seats.

In 2018 and 2020, the Democrats won 54.4% and 51.6% of the popular vote, and took 54.1 and 51.2% of the House seats.

I know people like Wasserman say that the Republicans can retake the House just due to redistricting, but I disagree. Have a booming economy and defeat COVID, don't let the activists define the party, and maybe have party leaders pick some especially juicy Sister Souljah moments, and get really good candidates who are well-fitted to their districts. Win a majority of the votes!

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founding

If anything, getting some of those MA Dems to go out and very publicly fall on their sword -- "This bill will almost certainly mean that some of us don't get re-elected because it will mean MA elects some Republicans, proportional to how many MA Republicans actually vote, but we're voting for it anyways because the US House _should_ have some MA Republicans, balanced out by having the fair number of NC Democrats" -- would probably be good PR for getting the bill passed. We should be promising those MA Dems whatever it takes to get them to play ball.

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founding

The problem is that those MA Dems show no indication of wanting to cooperate - one of them already tried to take Markey's Senate seat!

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founding

"I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

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Any federal law to limit gerrymandering runs into a buzzsaw of challenges on states rights grounds that would come to a gerrymandering friendly Supreme Court.

The fundamental asymmetric problem with fighting gerrymandering is that liberals want districts to be *fair* while conservatives want districts to give them a permanent majority like they have in Michigan and Wisconsin. Not that liberals don't gerrymander when given the opportunity. Maryland has some of the worst shaped districts in the country.

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It's important to understand that the odd "shape" of Maryland districts isn't really about partisanship.

What we have is a 7-1 map. An aggressive Dem gerrymandering could easily draw an 8-0 map (and that may well happen this year). A proportional map would be 6-2. What makes the Maryland districts so contorted is they are trying to customize the ethnic and political balance of the different districts to suit the Democratic incumbents. In particular they're trying to craft districts for Hoyer and Sarbanes that are not only safe, but safe for *white* Democrats.

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Which in and of itself is an even deeper type of gerrymandering in that it is intraparty. Neighbors one mile apart from me in either direction are in entirely separate districts. I am in District 2 which is designed as a safe district for Dutch Ruppersberger containing both major military bases. Across the main road from me is District 3 for dynasty legacy John Sarbanes while another mile away is District 7 for Kweise Mfume which is Elijah Cummings old district. All Democrats splitting one very small suburban county.

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founding

I recommend that you try drawing a couple districts to get a bit of a sense of what causes the weird shapes.

https://districtr.org/

Choose a state, try to draw some districts that have population that is equal within 0.5% of each other, and try not to divide all the black people among different districts so that they get outvoted by white democrats everywhere, and see what sorts of shapes you have to get (especially near the corners of states).

It doesn't have to be anywhere near as bad as the current maps, but there are some interesting surprises.

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Heyyyyy hoco showing up strong in slow boring. I am in district 7 and it really makes no sense that I'm the same district as some of Baltimore city.

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I'm in the same district as Havre de Grace.

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It's possible that the Court would toss all or part of an anti gerrymandering bill, but the situation is very different than it is on campaign finance or whatever because of Article I, Section 4: "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators."

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"liberals want districts to be *fair* ... Not that liberals don't gerrymander when given the opportunity"

I think there might be a contradiction here?

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Not so much. Those "crazy libs: in California adopted a new system to reduce gerrymandering. It has happened in other blue states as well. Check it out. In fact, some Ds are upset by it because they think it's something like unilateral disarmament.

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My understanding is that California's anti-gerrymandering system isn't all its cracked up to be. It did take power away from politicians, and it did make the district shapes less weird, but it didn't seem really change election outcomes or even make the districts significantly more competitive. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/01/californiajust-proved-that-redistricting-reform-isnt-all-its-cracked-up-to-be/

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The article says that the California map is limited by single member districts so there aren't a lot of competitive districts, not that it's biased towards Democrats. By most of the ways people judge gerrymandering (efficiency gap, partisan bias) the California map is pretty fair

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In CA, Republican house candidates got a third of the votes in 2020 but only 20% of the seats. Proportionality is a very common way to judge gerrymandering (it's the one MY advocates!), and CA's districts sure as hell aren't fair by that metric. An proportional map would look a lot more like https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/california/#Proportional

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California could draw its maps to make it impossible for the GOP to get even one House seat out of fifty-five. Instead, they have a dozen.

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"California could draw its maps to make it impossible for the GOP to get even one House seat out of fifty-five." Technically true, but by that standard any state where one party has an advantage over the other could gerrymander the weaker party out of existence. However, that generally doesn't happen. This is what a Democratic Gerymander would look like: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/california/#Dem Note that there are still Republican seats.

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Really? The constitution grants congress the ability to regulate elections explicitly. It might be easier than you think.

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Arguing about proportion seems unwinnable. Why not strive for cohesion and community and let partisanship fall where it may? Excessively gerrymandered districts lump people from legitimately different communities instead of allowing them to share representation. To avoid districts like the MD-3, one could start with a map of all school boundaries in a state (since they always exist are fairly granular and schools are public spaces used for polling). A computer would not have much trouble drawing a map with two rules. 1) Make the population of n districts as even as possible, and 2) minimize the edge to volume ratio. One would get compact, cohesive and even districts. Let the politics and demographics fall where they may.

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One idea I had that would work better for state legislatures than Congress is to use existing county lines: rather than equalizing population between districts, you'd give different legislators different amounts of voting power to match their counties' populations. So to take Georgia as an example the Senator from Muscogee County would get about 0.84 votes on the floor, while the Senator from Richmond County would get 1.06 votes. You'd have to split a few really big counties like Fulton, and you could combine adjacent counties if they're really small (below some objective population threshold), but otherwise county lines would be sacrosanct. I tried running the numbers on this in a few states once and it was a big improvement everywhere except Wisconsin where there's just an awful natural gerrymander from the way the population is distributed. Every state has natural gerrymanders but they usually aren't nearly so extreme. This idea isn't perfect but it would have the benefit of removing 90% of the discretion and human judgment that are now part of the process.

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founding

I really like the idea of ending "one representative, one vote" in favor of "one voter, one vote".

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founding

The issue is that I can see why partisanship of a legislative map matters, but I can't see any reason why cohesion and community do. A representative is not a mayor - why does it matter if they represent anything like a coherent community?

Your proposal would strongly empower any rural party and disempower any urban party, because rural areas would usually have slight majorities over attached suburbs, while urban areas would usually be extremely packed.

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I think it makes sense that members of a community have shared interests. For example residents of Baltimore should be able to elect a representative who would represent their interests in requesting funding for transit needs, rather than have those needs diluted by having constituents from western MD share the district. It is not clear that rural districts would have any advantage at all, and playing with the Atlas of redistricting, rural districts often become geographically larger, but they don't become more numerous.

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founding

If your 18 district state is 1/3 urban, 1/3 suburban, and 1/3 rural, then a proposal that focuses on compactness may easily end up with 8 districts that are 75% urban and 25% suburban, and 10 districts that are 60% rural and 40% suburban. Prioritizing compactness is going to mean that urban areas make up a strong majority of their district, while rural areas are more naturally going to be broken up, because you won't allow districts that surround a city.

In any case, if you want districts to be equal size, then some communities are going to have to be broken up.

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"strive for cohesion and community and let partisanship fall where it may"

agreed.

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Is anyone out there working on the actual text of a "really good anti gerrymandering bill"? If so, who? If not, why doesn't somebody in these comments write it so we can e-mail it to Schumer and Manchin? I'm like 50% serious here. It doesn't seem like it would be all that difficult to write, nor would it need to be all that long.

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founding

It is in fact pretty difficult to write. You can look at the stuff from the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group at Tufts University: https://mggg.org/

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I guess it depends. A proportional representation system would be easier to describe, if that's what people prefer.

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As a resident of a state (Wisconsin) in which voting has very little to do with political outcomes below the statewide level, I'm all in favor of anti-gerrymandering legislation. But I think you're a little too optimistic about its likely effect. Given the geographic concentration of Democratic voters in Wisconsin, you'd need some very, very strange districts to produce maps that make the "median district’s partisan composition...as close as possible to the mean partisanship of the state," as you advocate in your footnote. Proportional representation is the only way I see to address the issue, and there's no way I see to get from here to there. BTW, Nirvana's Krist Novoselic (I am not making this up) does good work on proportional representation.

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I think proportional representation with multi member districts is really the best solution here, but obviously not one at all under consideration in the current discourse. What do you think about this idea and what can be done to inject it into the conversation as a real solution?

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There is already the FairVote proposal in the form of a bill in the last Congress which would establish STV. Given sufficient party discipline by voters (likely in a polarized electorate), that amounts to PR. They should really just push that.

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I think this is really important and often overlooked:

"Last but by no means least, this whole line of thought rests on a fairly arbitrary effort to draw a line between “campaign-related disbursements” and other ways money can influence politics."

People talk about campaign donations quite a bit but so much of our media (news and entertainment) contains political messaging, often overtly, and is created by wealthy people and companies. Cop shows influencing views on policing is a version of money in politics as is making a "Trump like figure" the villain of your TV show sometime often the last 4 years.

If people only care about the idea that politicians are being "bought" by donations that is one thing but if they care about rich people and companies having a wildly outsized influence and platform to disseminate political messaging that is going to require a lot more thought.

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Isn't the easiest solution here to just end financial privacy entirely - require all financial transactions above a certain size to be published.

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My comment is really about transactions that would be private at all.

My point is just that political speech exists in many forms other than donations and if you want to limit the political influence of rich people and companies you have to be thinking about that as much as limiting who can donation to what campaign.

That is something I am not sure you can do without trampling on the 1st amendment but it is at the heart of what we are talking about.

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is not really*

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You leave out the voter registration and ballot access provisions of the bill. Since state level Republicans are in a mad rush to restrict access to both, the matter deserves some consideration. One of the problems with Democrats elected from "safe" seats is they tend to view their office as a lifetime entitlement. This has a negative effect on the incentives to work for their constituents. Whatever the content of the policies advocated by Justice Democrats, shaking up that entitlement attitude is a positive development.

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It seems to me that people tend to write about HR1 and the Democratic majority as though they are (still) a heard of cats devoid of political skills. It's as if Trump never happened and McConnell is somehow still secretly the majority leader.

I've read numbers takes that start "HR1 was a messaging bill, but now it's serious". Really? Why isn't it still a messaging bill? And plenty of "Joe Manchin is standing in the way of <DEM_PRIORITY>" takes. Really? Maybe he is just playing the foil?

The Democrats advance HR1 and then: a) Republicans filibuster it, giving Democrats the public support needed to reform the filibuster, with Manchin's "reluctant approval". b) Republicans, fearing the Democrats are just crazy enough to blow up the filibuster---oh, Manchin, will he/won't he?---offer amendments and try to negotiate some kind of compromise. c) Democrats are crazy enough to blow up the filibuster and pass HR1, triggering a fundraising bonanza (for both sides) and also some real reforms. d) What Matt said; play chicken with HR1 until Manchin "is convinced" and then start all over with a gerrymandering bill.

a-d are all winners for Democrats; what is the e) Democrats lose and DeSantis nominates Trump to the Supreme Court in 2025 scenario?

Democrats are all ready testing the waters by daring Republicans to filibuster a bill meant to curb Asian hate-crimes.

Also, does anyone remember back when bills were debated, amended and improved before passing?

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Reducing the political power of super-rich people and moneyed corporate interests, and increasing the power of people with a few hundred dollars of disposable income to donate to their preferred political candidates, is good, actually.

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founding

I think this is really not clear at all. I mean, the upper middle class already runs everything - there's no need to give us even *more* power.

If we divide the population into the lowest 70% in income, the 70-99%, and the top 1%, then under a system with unlimited funding and universal suffrage, the 70% control most of the votes and the 1% control most of the funding. But under a system like we actually have, where half of people don't vote, and contributions by the wealthy are limited, the 70-99% control most of the votes *and* most of the funding. As a result, even the nominally left-wing candidates spend most of their time talking about college loan forgiveness rather than grants to low-income families with children.

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In principle? Or in outcomes? Because I think most of us agree with the former, I have questions about the latter.

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"keeping quiet on what is unpopular (though maybe still do what is unpopular)"

This is basically the Republican strategy and it's worked well enough for them to get power around half the time. Given that the unpopular items supported by Democrats are better than the unpopular items supported by Republicans (in general, and of course IMO) this should be a long-term winner for Dems.

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*I think* black and brown people make up the base of the party, so I don't see how ignoring their complaints would be good for Democratic turnout.

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You have to distinguish between what's being complained about by activist groups claiming to represent black and brown people, and actual black and brown people themselves. Example that jumps to mind, and which I think may have been covered on SB before, is the support among black and brown people in polls for more police presence (with reform), which stands in contrast to the "defund the police" talk coming from activist groups.

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This thread sort of implies that unrepresentative activists = the majority of small dollar donors, but that can't be true because there aren't enough of them.

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That's still a racial issue though. You just disagree about the best solution. I don't have any polls handy, but it seems extremely likely that a majority of non-activist black and brown people would consider policing to be a race issue.

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"black and brown people make up the base of the party, so I don't see how ignoring their complaints would be good for Democratic turnout"

If the median black/brown American would like more police patrols in their community to reduce crime, and Democrats are advocating to reduce police funding, i.e., reduce the number of police patrols, that's kind of ignoring their complaints. As Dan S says, this is also true of economic issues where activists press for greater representation on corporate boards while workers want higher wages and better benefits.

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Are you really making the case that the people standing in the way of better wages and benefits are the same ones who expanded healthcare to 20 million people and have been pushing the "Fight for 15" for almost a decade?

"Defund the police" was bad politics because it was dumb, not because it was anti-racist. The fact that some liberal activists are bad at politics or have too much influence is an inevitable by-product of politics. I don't see the virtue of blaming them for imperfectly moving us toward the positive change that moderates are only reluctantly coming to.

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"I'm virtually certain college educated white people care more about prioritizing "racial justice" then black people without college degrees."

What reason do you have to believe this? Is this based on more than that you know some college-educated white people that you find annoying?

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Do you have an example of a proportional Massachusetts map?

From what I understand, it's not really easy to design such a map in MA - the GOP voters are too interspersed throughout the state.

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author

Check out Dave Wasserman's Atlas of Redistricting.

The MA map is not truly proportional for the reason you cite. But what you get is three swing seats.

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-maps/massachusetts/#Proportional

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That map sure does not look *not* gerrymandered. Particularly the 3rd and 6th district.

I think that distinguishing between "gerrymandering, but for reasons and goals that I think are righteous" and "not gerrymandering" is important.

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To what degree can nonpartisan redistricting combat the simple realities of geography? I'm sure anti-gerrymandering can help, but in order to truly undo the rural bias, wouldn't you have to move to proportional representation for the whole state (or much larger mega-districts)?

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founding

Mixed-member proportional, or proportional representation in multi-member districts, are likely to be the only way to do it.

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STV! (I incorporate by reference the various comments made on the subject elsewhere.)

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That's true, but it's also true of IRV (single-winner ranked choice). The particular advantage of STV (multiple-winner ranked choice) over IRV is that it effectively becomes a form of PR when people vote along party lines (which they generally do), especially with more members per district.

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Simpler solution would be the option to use an algorithm to make the districts as compact as possible.

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founding

Making districts compact usually results in a strong gerrymander for one party. Usually the Republicans, because the urban seats are going to be hugely Democratic, while the suburban seats will be tilted moderately red by big rural hinterlands. (I suspect compact districts in Massachusetts or Maryland would produce 100% Democrats though, just because the rural Republican areas are small and scattered.)

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That mapping project is very interesting. I think there's something to be said for the maps that promote competitive districts in terms of effects on representatives' incentives and behavior.

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Yeah, am interesting idea tucked away in this piece is that Manchin could be convinced on the grounds that gerrymandering causes extremism. I wonder how much Manchin cares about the prospects of the party but maybe he does care about the extremism bit.

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