An excellent example of the disenfranchisement that can be caused by using single winner districts to elect members to a legislature can be seen in the 1926 Canadian federal election for the province of Manitoba.
The province of Manitoba was entitled to 17 seats. The Conservative party had 42.2% of the popular vote within Manitoba but was unable to win any of the single winner districts.
Here is the data care of RangeVoting.org :
||Number of seats
More information about the 1926 Manitoba election can also be found on wikipedia
Nick requested to see CA districting under the shortest splitline algorithm.
In 2004, not one of CA’s 173 state legislative and federal congressional seats changed party-hands. In 2002, every incumbent won re-election, on average with 69% of the vote. California may be the new gerrymandering champion, perhaps even worse than Illinois and Texas, but unlike them its gerrymandering is “bipartisan” that is, arranged by agreement among the Democrats and Republicans to “design their own districts” to make every office holder “safe.”
CA districts under the shortest splitline algorithm:
I’m a sucker for pictures. They communicate ideas quite succinctly.
Here I show some examples of congressional districts as they are drawn currently and as the shortest split-line algorithm would draw them. Continue reading
If one insists on electing members of a legislative body via districted single-winner elections then the problem of gerrymandering will surface.
Can gerrymandering be solved?
There are a number of proposed reforms out there. Continue reading
If my packing the house post did not sufficiently explain how gerrymandering can, well, pack the house then perhaps the folks at the USC Game Innovation Lab and the USC Annenberg Center for Communications can do a better job.
They have developed a surprisingly fun game to demonstrate how to use redistricting to further political aims. They show how a political operative can draw districts to:
- perform a partisan gerrymander that favors one party
- perform a bipartisan gerrymander that favors multiple parties and ensures the reelection of incumbents
- satisfy the requirements of the Voting Rights Act yet still achieve a partisan gerrymander
Additionally, and perhaps unintentionally, they show how a proposed reform can be shot down by those who have a political stake in the outcome.
You can play the game at http://www.redistrictinggame.org/. Warning: the game requires flash.
A district-based system for choosing representatives has issues in-and-of-itself. Those issues become applified when you ask the questions “who draws the districts?” and “how often are districts redrawn?”.
All too often the answers to these questions indicates systematic abuse of power by those that are in power. In the US both the Republicans and the Democrats have a long history of abusing redistricting.
In fact, it goes back to before these parties existed. Consider Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.