It is a subject that constantly bobs along the national horizon, coming to the fore when a close Presidential election happens or the public becomes annoyed with politicians who stack the deck with gerrymandering. We, of course, are talking about reform of Electoral College processes and how this might affect U.S. businesses.
First, consider the political practice of manipulating voting districts for advantage, a device originally used by Elbridge Gerry, then governor of Massachusetts, to gain votes and control of election districts. A March 26, 1812, Boston Gazette editorial said the redrawn district resembled a salamander (thus gerrymander). Woodcuts used for the original cartoon printing are preserved to this day in the Library of Congress. The public perception remains that the animal with claws, wings and a dragon’s head appearing in that cartoon is not in keeping with fair and honest elections and government.
This leads to consideration that gerrymandering can have deleterious effects on principles of democratic accountability. For example, bipartisan redistricting redrew Congressional district lines in California in 2010 with the result that only one seat in the House of Representatives changed hands through 2010. Nationwide redistricting in 1990 created districts where racial minorities were packed into a majority district, which distorts, suppresses and makes proportional representation a sham. This is not an acceptable outcome regardless of one’s political affiliation. It is equally abominable that even today bipartisan gerrymandering is most often used to ensure incumbent re-election.
Gerrymandering has a direct impact on national elections of Representatives and the President of the U.S. Article II of the Constitution gives states broad authority to define how electoral votes are selected and divided among candidates for the elective offices. Every state has electoral votes equal to the number of Representatives in Congress plus two for its Senators. There are currently 435 members in the House, 100 Senators, plus three for the District of Columbia (thanks to the 23rd Constitutional amendment), which totals 538 votes available in the Electoral College. Therefore, 270 electoral votes win a Presidential election.
In 48 of the 50 states, the presidential candidate with the most votes wins all of the state’s electoral votes. This is the winner-take-all system. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have district-by-district voting so that one electoral vote goes to the winner in each Congressional district plus the two remaining votes go to the winner of the cumulative popular vote. While the winner-take-all approach can arguably dull the pernicious effects of gerrymandering, there is imbalance in the current Electoral College system. Remember that the largest state is 66 times more populous than the smallest and has 18 times as many electoral votes.
What we have going for us today is certainly not what the Founders had in mind for selecting Representatives and a President. And no other Electoral College scheme proposed solves the large and growing number of problems … except for the following innovative idea.
What about an Electoral College based on 50 states with equal population so that each state and all citizens have equal voice in the outcome? It is not necessary to change the 50 states as we know and love them but, just for the sake of Presidential elections, change the definition of a “state” just on Election Day.
The 2010 census showed the American population at 308,745,538. Fifty states with equal population would contain 6,174,911 citizens each and could be defined so that the smallest state varies from average by only 2,067 (0.03%) and the largest by 4,073 (0.07%). A bright fellow named Neil Freeman developed a computer algorithm that did this parsing of the national map, and it is a very clever concept. For a view of this map, see www.fakeisthenewreal.org. You can buy a 22- x 28-inch poster for $35.
The advantages claimed by this proposal are that the historic structure and function of the Electoral College is retained; boundaries of these “electoral states” more closely follow economic patterns; population of House districts that currently range from 528,000 to 924,000 are of no consequence; and the “electoral map” can be adjusted after each decade and census. The only reported downside is that some state and/or local jurisdictions may be required to change laws or regulations for Election Day.
Now to the point about why this can be important for industry. The effects of gerrymandering would be diminished. Can you imagine operating a business with less political pressure, regulatory hassle and interference from government? IH