Manchin on Voting Rights
The news is that Joe Manchin has described a voting rights compromise which he supports. Also Republicans immediately said it was unacceptable to them. This reminds everyone that there will be no bipartisan compromise on an issue where the two parties have diametrically opposite interests. If there were any Republicans who did not equate democrats with Democrats, and pigs could fly, it would be different, but there aren’t.
I am reasonably confident that nothing will come of this. To pass a bill it would be necessary to eliminate the filibuster and Manchin (and Sinema) won’t do that. However, I am actually interested in an incredibly vague part of Manchin’s proposed bill “Ban partisan gerrymandering and ‘use computer models,’ the latter of which isn’t further specified;”
It does seem that “computer models” doesn’t narrow things down much. However, I think it is quite simple really. It is possible to use precinct level data to calculate the ratio of Republicans elected to Republican votes statewide implied by districts. It is easy to compare proposed districting with the rule that if the ratio is closer to one with one set of districts then it must be preferred. The only non obvious detail I propose is that the results of the most recent 2 elections be used, because the turnout in midterm elections is very different from that in presidential year elections.
I would propose that only if two proposed sets of districts have the exact same estimated partisan bias according to this formula may any other properties of the districts be considered. I am reasonably confident that the bias can be reduced to the fact that we can cut congress people in half (even if the idea is sometimes appealing). In any case, the party with a minority in the state legislature has a very strong incentive to look very hard for proposals to reduce the bias.
I often read that Democrats are necessarily automatically at a disadvantage, because, even aside from partisan gerrymandering, Democratic voters are concentrated in cities and so many Democratic votes must be wasted. I do not believe this at all. Rather I think not explicitly partisan rules about compactness and respecting municipal and county boundries if possible favor the Republicans. There is no reason such rules deserve consideration at all comparabile to the importance that legislative majorities correspond as nearly as possible to the popular vote. I think that (except of course for the US Senate) they can correspond almost exactly.
I would like a law requiring that they do.
Again, I don’t expect to get it, or anything, but the problem is very simple, and the solution is obvious.
I don’t expect to see anything resembling fair representation in my lifetime. In my state the stated aim is districts and precincts with equal numbers of people, but there is compactness to consider, fair enough, and then they throw in existing boundaries. In urban areas like Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs it really should not be difficult to draw rectangles with roughly equal populations but by the time you throw in town, city, or county boundaries and you get zig-zags indistinguishable at a glance from serious gerrymandering. In rural areas you get precincts from tiny to relatively huge because no one should have to drive 100 miles to cast their votes, so one or more of the precinct workers make the drive election night.
The changes needed will be difficult to get, not because they don’t make sense or aren’t the most practical way to deal with the issue, but because of tradition and partisanship.
I think we have had the legislature and non-partisan commissions in the past trying to wrestle with this, and no one was ever happy for long. Good luck getting anything reasonable and meaningful passed, at any level.
Charles Pierce has the most accurate description of this hick from Morgantown.
“I still don’t know how Joe Manchin ever goes to the grocery store without coming back with a bag of magic beans.”
Actually, there is a way we can legally “…can cut congress people in half…” The number of members of the House of Representatives can be increased by whatever number the Congress and Administration deem advisable, maybe even doubling to symbolically “…cut congress people in half.” The House should be expanded since it’s been frozen at its current size for the last century, done during the last immigrant and eugenics movement panic during the 1910s and 1920s when all “good” ‘mericans were concerned about immigrants then from southern and eastern Europe and still a little sketchy about those from Ireland and Germany. It helps reduce the problem of the allocation of Electoral College votes to the states too by increasing the weight of real live persons’ vote over land’s value.
I did a post on this showing the Wyoming Rule to reposition the House by the lowest population in a state, it being Wyoming. It would need approval of the Senate also. Think Repubs would go for this?
“The current size of the House was set by the Reapportionment Act of 1929. This law would need to be repealed and replaced in order to change the number of congressional members, which would require a majority of both houses of Congress to approve it.
From a constitutional standpoint, the only restriction on House size is a limit of one representative per thirty thousand people. Therefore, the Wyoming Rule would be constitutional as long as no state had two or more representatives with a population below 60,000.”
Joe Manchin seeks to soothe progressive Dems by rhetorical measures, ‘signifying nothing’ as the Bard of Avon said. His biggest political risk here is annoying the GOP. Unless the Filibuster Rule is taken away. How about that, Joe? Unfortunately that would annoy the GOP even more.