Issue 97 • Week of November 26, 2023
The first contest of the 2024 elections is only six weeks away. The race for president always draws the most attention, but other choices will also be on the ballot throughout the year. Unfortunately, many citizens' primary votes for Congress carry far more weight than their decision for the general election because their districts are designed to be rarely competitive between parties (let alone encourage independent candidates).
Out of all the lofty goals presented here that can seem insurmountable until we outline specific steps to achieve change, one of the most daunting is the process by which voters choose our representatives – or rather, the process by which representatives are able to choose their voters. Even term limits, whether or not you believe in them, have a clear path to fruition if enough citizens demand it... however risky.
Yet analysts who spend their entire careers dissecting political campaigns routinely throw up their hands when trying to engineer a way out of our partisan electoral maps. Only 5% of Americans support gerrymandering. No meaningful federal legislative action has been taken since 1975. Aggrieved parties may cry foul after a census triggers redistricting, but they shortsightedly do nothing about the issue when they have the upper hand.
Advances in computing have turned the art of drawing boundaries into a science that can snake around individual city blocks. Whether such technology leads to fairer or more unjust districts depends on who controls the process and that does not bode well for Americans.
The US has the least impartial electoral maps of 54 democracies analyzed.
Districts are decided at the state level usually by state legislatures that can be vetoed by governors, thwarting attempts at building momentum. Plus, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2019 that it has no jurisdiction over deciding political gerrymandering. Justices also threw out one of the key victories of the civil rights movement in 2013 when they said the process determining racial gerrymandering was out of date. Congress, in typical fashion, has yet to agree upon a new guideline 10 years later.