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November 7, 2003
Voting Without a Choice

The Washington Post sends out a clear warning signal about the effects of radical gerrymandering on democratic processes:

VIRGINIANS CAN FLATTER themselves that they held an election this week, and in some technical sense they did. Votes were cast, and by day's end candidates had won state offices. Yet there was one glaring problem, which should gnaw at everyone who left the polls with a cheery "I Voted" sticker: Most of the legislative races were hardly more competitive than elections in the old Soviet Union. And just as it is in non-democratic societies, this absence of meaningful competition was the product of deliberate manipulation -- in this case the gerrymandering of legislative districts by the politicians who then run for reelection from those districts. Most results were known before a single vote was cast.

This problem occurs more frequently than ever in more and more states, and why this is a problem is explained quite clearly by the Post:

The point of elections is to test ideas and hold officials accountable. This process is short-circuited when like-minded voters are so concentrated in districts as to render the outcome a certainty. Lack of competition amplifies ideological differences and further polarizes U.S. politics, because Republican officeholders need not answer to Democratic constituents and Democratic officeholders can ignore Republican voters.

We are increasingly reaping the rewards of this process, and term limits hasn't done a thing to help. Redistricting needs to respect community boundaries and common sense; the original concept behind districts was not to Balkanize Republicans and Democrats, but to elect representatives to be truly representative of their communities. Once again, we should demand a better accounting of the districting process and saner, community-based districts.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 7, 2003 8:34 AM

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