Friday, October 22, 2004

# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRYMANDERING: All of the responses to yesterday's post about reforming the electoral college focused on the issue of gerrymandering. My original post built on the analysis of Joshua Spivak in USA Today, and Joshua was kind enough to write in with his comments on my post.

Joshua makes two points. First, gerrymandering has already resulted in the polarization of Congress. Handing out electoral votes by congressional district might have the same effect on presidential politics.

Second, the Maine-Nebraska method is just as likely as the winner-take-all approach to hand the election to the candidate with fewer popular votes. For example, Nixon won a majority of congressional districts in 1960.

Now, as DS points out, one way around the gerrymandering problem is for more states to follow the Iowa precedent of appointing a non-partisan commission to divide the state up into congressional districts.

But what're the odds of that happening, right? As SK points out, adopting the Maine-Nebraska approach without getting rid of gerrymandering ensures that
All the distrcits out there which are "safe" house seats, become "safe" electoral votes.
Such an outcome is possible, but not definite. As part of my thesis research, I've been focusing on a group of about 30 Democratic congressmen, mostly from the South, who supported Reagan's foreign policy. Their critics asserted that this decision wasn't a matter of principle, but just a reflection of their fear that opposing the President would cost them the upcoming election.

Even though I haven't finished my research yet, I have noticed that a lot of these congressmen were re-elected with more than 60% of the vote in 1984 in spite of the fact that Reagan won 60% or even 70% of the popular vote in their districts.

Obviously, this is just one counter-example, and I wouldn't want to adopt the Maine-Nebraksa method without carefully considering its impact. But perhaps that method is worth a serious look.
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