Posts Tagged ‘State Legislatures’

How to undo legislative gerrymandering?

July 9, 2019

Click to enlarge.

It’s not an accident that Democrats won a majority of votes for state assemblies in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, but Republicans won a majority of the legislative seats.

It’s because legislative districts were intentionally drawn by Republican state legislatures to give Republicans an advantage.  You can comply with the Supreme Court’s “one man, one vote” ruling and create legislative districts with equal population, and still draw the lines so as to give one party an advantage.

Click to enlarge

Both parties have done this through American history.  The word “gerrymander” comes from Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, whose party, the Democratic-Republicans (forerunner of today’s Democrats), drew up a strangely-shaped state senate district in 1812 to dilute the voters of the rival Federalists.

But Republicans during the last round of redistricting after the 2010 census used big data and computer analysis to lock in their control of legislatures in key states.  Democrats would have to do much more than win a majority of the votes to take back control.

They complained to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court turned them down, in a 5-4 decision.  Chief Justice John Roberts said the court can’t take up the burden of drawing legislative district boundaries for the states.

But Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that there is an accepted procedure for doing just this.  It consists of having a computer process draw up many different maps of legislative districts of equal population that are geographically compact and respectful of existing boundaries, and then allowing the state legislature to choose one of them.

If the state and federal courts do not do something about gerrymandering, who will?  State legislatures elected in gerrymandered district are unlikely to change the system that put them in power.  Congress? State legislatures draw congressional district boundaries, too.

But the fact is that the Supreme Court is not going to change its decision until and unless a new justice is appointed and maybe not even then.

What remains for Democrats is to try to get a large enough vote to offset a rigged system.  Or propose amendments to state constitutions to set up a fair process for drawing legislative districts.


Chief Justice Roberts OKs Minority Rule by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  Hat tip to him for the chart.

Republicans gain even more power in the states

November 14, 2016

Republicans, who already control the majority of state governments, gained complete control last Tuesday in Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and New Hampshire.

These maps show the extent of GOP control.




John Oliver on America’s invisible election

November 4, 2014

John Oliver pointed out in this broadcast how state legislatures pass the most of the laws that affect Americans on a day-to-day basis, and yet Americans know little about their operation.

I admit this is true of me.  I know much less about the records of New York State Senator Ted O’Brien and Assemblyman Harry D. Bronson than I do U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Louise Slaughter and, I admit, less about any of them that I do about President Obama.

A voter has to be pro-active to learn these things.  You have to do more than read your local newspaper or watch your local TV newscast.

The state legislatures also help determine the outcomes of national elections.  They draw the boundaries of congressional districts, which often are incredibly skewed in order to produce a pre-determined result.  And they write the laws about election procedures and voting eligibility, which also are skewed to produce a certain result.

I’ve written posts about the bad choices that American voters face, and the futility of always settling for the lesser evil.  That doesn’t mean that voting is unimportant.  I just say that voting should be based on positive reasons, not negative reasons, and not limited to Democrats and Republicans.   When I wrote that passive voting alone will not change American politics, I meant that it is only a first step, not a last step, not that it is meaningless.

States with veto-proof majorities

December 7, 2012


There is an increase in the number of states where one party or the other has a veto-proof majority in the state legislature.  To the extent that this represents the will of the people and not just creative legislative redistricting, I think this is a good thing, not a bad thing.   It means the states can be laboratories to test the ideas represented by the respective parties.

Hat tip to The American Conservative.