Stacking The Deck...

AGAINST A SHUFFLED ELECTORATE

By William Westmiller
12/24/98

The beginning of the next millennium will also be the start of a new decade, providing an opportunity to reform one of the oldest bad habits in our political history. Since the founding of our Constitutional republic, there has been one major flaw in its democratic exercise. Every ten years, the roles of voters and representatives are reversed. Rather than voters selecting their representatives, the representatives have an opportunity to select their voters. Using all the means at their disposal, incumbent legislators set about the task of drawing lines around their enemies and friends to ensure their own re-election. This insider's political game, called gerrymandering, allows legislators to create electoral districts that will secure the continuation of their political power for a decade.
The first year of every decade, the Census Bureau conducts an enumeration of the population. The objective is to equally apportion the seats in the House of Representatives among the various states. The second year, state legislatures draw electoral boundaries with the declared intent of frustrating their opponents. By picking and choosing census tracts on the basis of party registration, previous voting records, race and sexual demographics, legislators are able to create a powerful partisan monopoly within their state. These safe and secure districts can almost guarantee a favorable outcome in both state and congressional elections until the next census.
Since the explicit objective of gerrymandering is to create real political benefits and detriments, it is an inherently unequal application of the law for every resident of a state. A huge minority of electors are locked out of competition for those seats, leaving the contest to those favored candidates and voters who participate in the majority party's primary election. Every election, over ninety percent of incumbents are re-elected, in no small part because their districts have been carefully balanced to create a safe outcome. No wonder that so many voters are frustrated and convinced that their ballots do not count.
Though this malicious exercise has been a traditional political contest for over two centuries, it need not be so. There's no longer any reason to leave the districting process in the hands of interested and combative parties. A coalition of reformers in California has proposeda simple and objective method of drawing district lines after the 2000 census. The procedure ignores all political factors, such as registration and voting history, to automatically create compact and equal electoral districts. Beyond assuring nearly equal population, the Initiative proposal eliminates any possibility of racial, ethnic or sexual discrimination in the drawing of electoral boundaries.
The "Fair Vote 2K" Constitutional Amendment automates the districting process with a "seed and accumulate" process that can be performed manually or run on a small personal computer to create fair, objective and competitive electoral districts in any state. Census and district data can be downloaded from the Internet and processed with a free software program offered by the "Fair Vote 2K Coalition". The program uses basic geometry and proximate distances that defy manipulation and perversion. The outcome is a set districts that favor no political interests, but restore the power and influence of every voter in the state.
The Supreme Court made it clear decades ago that the right of suffrage is denied by debasement or dilution of a citizen's vote. As it was with racial discrimination, so it is with voting rights. "Equal but separate" is not equal. Even if districts have equal population, dividing the electorate by racial or even political criteria will adversely impact every voter trapped in a landslide district. As the author of this California Constitutional Amendment, my objective has been to restore the full voting power of every citizen by implementing the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment. The draft proposal of the Initiative is a best-case implementation of all Supreme Court rulings, which forbid the use of racial motives or historic political boundaries to establish districts. The proposition is, in every respect, a non-partisan, good government reform.
It may take time to persuade frustrated citizens that their vote really counts. If it's not done before this census, representative democracy will suffer until the year 2012. It's past time to put special privilege and power brokerage behind us to restore equal political opportunities for every voter.

1998, William Westmiller
Author, Fair Vote 2K Initiative
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CA) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
stacking.c21 ~710 Words
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