Friday, November 09, 2012

A broken democracy II

With the US Presidency settled, attention is now being paid to the House results. And there one thing is apparent: Gerrymandering has produced an undemocratic result:

Although a small number of ballots remain to be counted, as of this writing, votes for a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives outweigh votes for Republican candidates. Based on ThinkProgress’ review of all ballots counted so far, 53,952,240 votes were cast for a Democratic candidate for the House and only 53,402,643 were cast for a Republican — meaning that Democratic votes exceed Republican votes by more than half a million.


The actual partisan breakdown of the 113th Congress will be very different, however. Currently, Republicans enjoy a 233-192 advantage over Democrats, with 10 seats remaining undecided. That means that, in a year when Republicans earned less than half the popular vote, they will control a little under 54 percent of the House even if Democrats run the table on the undecided seats.

The Cube Rule is one of the few empirical "laws" of political science. In a two-party system, under FPP, the ratio of seats won is proportional to the ratio of the cubes of votes won. Applying this to the results above, the 435 seat house of Representatives should have a narrow Democratic majority, of around 221 to 214 seats. Instead, it has a significant Republican one. And as the article makes clear, the reason is Gerrymandering. US electoral boundaries are typically set by state legislatures, so whichever party controls a state at redistricting time gets to decide who will win its House seats for the next decade. The current poster-child for this is Pennsylvania, whose House seats went 13 - 5 to the Republicans, despite the vote going 51.3 - 48.7 to the Democrats (which in an ungerrymandered electorate, should have produced a split of around 10 - 8). But the phenomena is pervasive across the US, and this electoral cycle (thanks to a ruthless campaign in the past decade by Republican-controlled state legislatures) has significantly favoured the Republicans.

Its another sign of America's broken democracy - and one they need to fix if they want their elections to have any credibility.