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What if congressmen only got fractions of votes: the fraction of the voters who voted for them in the general election? So if they only got 51% of the vote, they only get 0.51 votes in the house.

So gerrymandering which largely works by dividing up the opposing voters and grouping theirs to have just enough to win or grouping most of the opposing voters into a few districts so they get to keep the rest of the seats, fails. The districts where they grouped the opposition now gets a stronger vote correlating perfectly to the ratio of voters, and the seats where they put just enough voters to win their district have weaker votes, correlating perfectly to the ratio.

It all ends up being balanced based on the true vote counts rather than just needing 51% to get an entire vote in the House. It seems to at the very least weaken gerrymandering.

Does this solve or lessen the problem of gerrymandering?

Alternatively, what about this twist to the concept?

Equal Representation:

A more dramatic twist: Double the size of the House - every district now elects two seats: The final two opponents with the most votes, and each one gets a vote value based on their percentage of the voters, so they loser with 49% of the vote gets 0.49 votes in the house and the winner with 51% of the vote gets 0.512 votes in the house - this way the losing side gets represented too. I feel this way, while more severe of a change, really truly destroys gerrymandering and doesn't damage the system in any way.

  • What is the source of the quoted text at the start of this question? – James K Dec 26 '17 at 21:11
  • @JamesK me. I wrote it somewhere else and quoted it for basically formatting sake. – john doe Dec 26 '17 at 21:13
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    The Constitution calls for the states to elect members, not fractions thereof. – jeffronicus Dec 26 '17 at 21:14
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    I'm pretty sure this is called "proportional representation" and some countries do implement it. Most US elections are "winner take all". – barrycarter Dec 26 '17 at 21:18
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    This idea works perfectly... if there are only two candidates for the position. What should happen if there are 10? 10 congressmen? And of course, due to the low barriers, it will entice more candidates to run for office. 20? 30? – SJuan76 Dec 26 '17 at 23:37
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Either

This would not be legal under the United States constitution. Each Representative's vote is worth the same as any other's, as per the constitution. So it could only pass by constitutional amendment.

You may want to check out the Single Transferable Vote, which does something similar while keeping each seat worth the same.

First

In some ways, this just flips the gerrymandering. Instead of gerrymandering for the maximum seats, you would gerrymander to maximize the votes from the seats. Republicans wouldn't like this solution, as it advantages Democrats (in the same way that the current system advantages Republicans).

Currently, there is no downside to not running a candidate in a district. Under this system, parties would have to run candidates even in districts where they had no chance of winning.

Alternative

California has top two districts. It's not that strange for the same party to nominate both of the top two. So this could still result in one side winning two seats in a district. This could produce exceptionally weird gerrymanders. Because they could be trying to maximize double seat districts rather than maximize the number of districts.

This also could reduce the quality of candidate in many districts. Why bother recruiting a good candidate if anyone could win?

Again, this version advantages Democrats over Republicans, because there are more really partisan Democrat (urban) districts than really partisan Republican districts.

Third parties

I personally don't like these ideas because they do nothing for third parties. They reinforce the two-party hegemony.

Practicality

There are other systems that do not require a constitutional amendment and have similar advantages, e.g. STV. It would probably be easier to switch to one of them than to try to adopt something like this. This is both because switching would be easier and because pro-reform people like me will oppose this kind of reform as not helping our concerns.

  • It's not quite fair to say it does nothing for third parties, in that in two winner districts, Duverger's law implies one third party should benefit as the unelected "opposition". – origimbo Dec 27 '17 at 1:42
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I don't think it will work very well.

First of all, it may not be as effective as you think. Let's say you have a state with 8 congressional districts where party A and party B split evenly. When party A draws the lines, they give themselves 51%, 51%, 51%, 51%, 51%, 51%, 51%, 43%. They get 3.57 votes and party B gets 0.57. That's a ratio of about 6.26 to 1, which is not much of an improvement over the 7 to 1 ratio that ordinary gerrymandering would produce.

It weakens the power of districts that are evenly split. And that can produce some weird results. Let's say I'm from Wisconsin, where everyone (including both candidates) cares about federal cheese price laws more than anything else. We're better off voting for whoever we think will win instead of our favorite candidate, because every vote not cast for the winner reduces the voting power of our representative.

Another consideration is that every single election will have to be recounted to make sure you have the exact numbers, because it will matter whether that incumbent in a safe seat got 79% or 80% of the vote. There's going to be some expense associated with that.


As for your "twist", it doubles the number of representatives in the House from 435 to a rather unwieldy 870. If you try to reduce that back down to 435, you end up with districts that have twice the population. I don't think either is a positive change.

It won't eliminate gerrymandering, either, although it reduces its maximum effectiveness to about a 1.71 to 1 ratio (about 12 to 7.) There's an issue where a party can seek a double-win. If a party has 67% of the vote, then instead of getting 0.67 votes and allowing the opponent to get 0.33, they could try to make the election go 33.5%-33.5%-33% and get 0.67 votes while the opponents get 0. They would gerrymander to attempt to get the opponents to just under 33% in certain districts, while keeping themselves at either over 34% or as close to 0 as possible in the others. But the success of this would depend, not on how many voters support that party, but whether they can correctly organize their voters to split evenly between the two candidates. I find that to be a little ridiculous. (They can arrange a "third party" that's obviously affiliated, if you say that a party can only run one candidate. Primaries won't help either; that just shifts the same battle from the main election to the primary.)

Also, if there are more than 2 candidates you still have the same problem with contested areas being underrepresented. If an election goes 34%-33%-33%, the district only gets 0.67 total votes.

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