When the Tea Party Republicans were swept into office by way of the 2010 wave election on the promise of fiscal conservatism, most members of the reality-based community probably shrugged their shoulders with the thought, “how much harm can they do with one congressional term?” When they quickly turned their backs on pledges to work on fiscal matters to ram through as many anti-abortion bills as they could think up, I’m sure the thought. “Oh, so that’s how much damage they can do with one congressional term!” was on the minds of many rational people. As bad as the War on Women is, however, 201o was also a census year, so in addition to countless horrible anti-choice bills, the new Republicans now controlling many state legislatures also got the chance to influence the drawing of congressional districts.
Now let’s not lie to each other. When Democrats control the state legislatures, they gerrymander the hell out of districts as well. This is not a case where one party is pure and innocent. When we finally wake up and begin to reform our government, removing any authority on the make up of congressional districts from partisan hands will be high on my list of things that need changed, perhaps right behind the end of single representative districts. I seriously wonder what they were smoking when they decided to give the power to draw districts to the very people who get elected from those districts. It is a fact of the current political landscape; if the democrats are in power during a census year, the districts will favor the democrats, if republicans are in power, the map will favor them. In all likely hood, the GOP only still controls the House nationally because of the gerrymandering of 2010/2011. As you know if you pay attention, and/or care, I live in Pennsylvania. If anyone has any question whether congressional districts are redrawn because of partisan influence, look for a map of my states new districts. It is good for comedy, if nothing else.
A related bipartisan (depending on who is in power) horrible idea is making the rounds again this year; the awarding of Electoral votes by Congressional district. A bill to do this was just introduced (again) in the PA House. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, already award their electoral votes this way, and on the surface it does seem to have its merits. Under this system, instead of a states electoral votes going to the winner of the popular vote in the state, they are instead awarded to the winner of each congressional district. Currently, this is a GOP idea, since with the current landscape, the majority of PA’s electoral votes would have been awarded to Mitt Romney this year, instead of to Obama. During the Bush years, this was a Democratic idea, as the dems thought it would help them in places like Colorado.
Thankfully, most years that this idea is brought back from the trash heap, it poses little danger of becoming law. Either politicians feel it would be seen as too much of a power grab, or they realize that while it may benefit their party this year, it may hurt them in years to come.
Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a post up on the hypocrisy of both sides over this issue, in which Ed expresses the same opinion I have on the Electoral College:
My position, at least, is consistent — all such proposals should be eliminated, including the electoral college. Every single vote should count exactly the same and the popular vote should determine the winner.