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December 2, 2005

Redistricting and the Payola Deficit

Remember this map?

Turns out that Justice Department staffers unanimously agreed that it violated the Voting Rights Act. But they were overruled by senior political appointees, and their 73 page memo was buried, never presented to the 3-judge panel which ultimately approved the Texas Redistricting plan.

Mark Posner, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who now teaches law at American University, said it was “highly unusual” for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

“In this kind of situation, where everybody agrees at least on the staff level … that is a very, very strong case,” Posner said. “The fact that everybody agreed that there were reductions in minority voting strength, and that they were significant, raises a lot of questions as to why it was” approved, he said.

Maybe questions for you, Mr. Posner. But, in this Administration, it would only have been surprising were this plan to have been rejected. In fact, I don’t know why we haven’t seen more fake news stories to the effect that minority voters in Texas are actually happier under the new plan.

Posted by distler at December 2, 2005 3:18 AM

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Re: Redistricting and the Payola Deficit

Despite the obvious political reasons, why should one map be acceptable, and not another?

I think a fairer system is one the parties get the number of seats proportional to the percentage of the votes they get. Germany has such a system, but there a threshold of 5%. That is why some of the smaller parties, like the Green party, can be a check against the established ones. And it takes care of problems with adequate minority representation…

But then again, there is of course the Arrow’s impossibility theorem which demonstrates that several desirable features of voting systems are mutually contradictory.

Posted by: ard on December 2, 2005 10:51 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Proportional Representation

Proportional representation has many advantages. But, I think, one of its main disadvantages is that it removes the notion that a Congressman is elected to represent “his” constituents (there’s no notion of “write your Congressman,” if seats are awarded based on proportional representation, rather than geographically).

This is, perhaps, less of an issue in Parliamentary systems, but it’s rather important in systems like that of the US. My biggest beef with the redistricting plan was that it left Austin as the largest city in America without a seat in the House of Representatives.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on December 2, 2005 11:11 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

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