Former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. (D-New York) is wrong, proportional representation not redrawing districts is the solution to gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering occurs when a party or faction draws legislative districts in such a way to exclude potential opponents. Holder’s contention is that the U.S. House of Representatives has been gerrymandered by Republicans to favor groups like rural whites at the expensive of people of color and urban residents.
Holder is correct in his assessment of the House, but wrong in the proposed solution; trying to redraw districts in a more equitable way. Holder’s anti-gerrymandering crusade which involves a combination of lawsuits and litigation designed to make districts more representative is likely to make things worse.
Fear is the real cause of Gerrymandering
Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) will fail because it ignores the real cause of gerrymandering: fear.
Parties and politicians gerrymander districts because they are afraid of becoming powerless. That fear is a very valid one in our winner-take-all political system – in which one party represents each district.
Groups like rural whites and African Americans correctly understand they will get little or no political power without gerrymandering. Under the present system, no gerrymandering would mean no representation for many Americans.
Despite that gerrymandering is still bad because it deprives many people of political representation. Gerrymandering leads to nasty political battles, because there are a limited number of seats.
How Proportional Representation can End Gerrymandering
Proportional representation can reduce gerrymandering by eliminating the root cause of the problem – fear.
Under a proportional representation system the two or three top vote-getting candidates receive a seat in a legislative body. This would eliminate the basic incentive for gerrymandering, by eliminating one-party districts.
Under a proportional representation system, Democrats and Republicans would get a seat in most districts. That means most people would have some representation; including minorities who fear being left out of the current gerrymandered system.
Proportional representations would encourage partisan cooperation because the parties would have to work together to get legislation passed. Cooperation would be necessary because it would harder for one party to get an absolute majority and shut the other out of the process.
How Proportional Representation Might Work for Congress
A proportional representation system is the obvious solution for the problems facing the House of Representatives. An example of such a system is outlined below.
Each House district would have two seats that would represent the entire district. The seats would be held by the two candidates that got the most votes in the general election. If the Democrat got 40% of the vote, and the Republican 60% both would represent the district in Congress.
This would eliminate the incentive for gerrymandering, because both parties would get representation no matter how the district was drawn. It would also give both parties a strong incentive to campaign everywhere and listen to all voters they would have representatives from almost all districts.
Republicans would get a strong incentive to go into urban areas and campaign among people of color and younger voters. Democrats would have an incentive to go into rural areas and campaign among whites and small town residents. Republicans might start listening to gays and African-Americans, Democrats might start listening to Christians and gun owners.
Such a system would increase the representation from rural areas; and of people of color, in Congress because there would be more members. The six states that have one House of Representatives member; Montana, Alaska, Vermont, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming, would get two members.
Why each House District Should Represent One Million Voters
A good way to implement such a system would be to increase the size of House Districts to one million votes.
States with less than one million residents would get two Representatives regardless of population. The million voter rule would be rounded up to two million for states with one to two million residents; such as Montana, so they would each have two House Districts and four representatives.
Each House District should represent one million voters to prevent the representatives from becoming too big. The 2018 population of the United States has been estimated at 326.766 million, which would create a House of around 666 members with two-member districts. Note: that number includes 12 members for the six one-Representative states.
Holder’s work as chairman of the NRDC will not end gerrymandering. Instead, it will simply trigger a vicious new political battle that is likely to make the problem worse.
The gerrymandering problem is coming to a head because of two U.S. Supreme Court cases; Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone that might be litigated soon. A ruling by the Supremes would force action and trigger more litigation.
History teaches us that action is likely to make things worse, because both parties will try to rig the redistricting process to their benefit. The only real solution to gerrymandering is Proportional Representation. Hopefully, both Democrats and Republicans will learn that lesson before it is too late.