Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The House of Representatives is not Working Well!

Only around 17 out of 435 U.S, House of Representatives seats—less than 4%—will be competitive in November’s mid-terms. Even if one includes members who are retiring, resigning or have lost primaries, only 67 of 435 seats are in flux.

The Democrats won more votes than Republicans in the 2012 House elections but ended up with 33 fewer seats.
The graph shown on the right above is from an article in The Economist. It shows that there are now very few districts in the United States that elect someone from one party to the House of Representatives and also vote for a candidate from the other party for president -- many fewer than  in the 1990s. The graph on the left shows that the number of swing districts (that might reasonably be expected to elect either a Democrat or a Republican) has been reduced in this century.

The article provides several partial explanations. There are more gerrymandered districts, planned with the aid of new computer technology to be safe for one or the other party. People are tending to live in politically more homogeneous clusters -- Democrats choosing more often to live where other Democrats choose to live; Republicans choosing to live where other Republicans choose to live.
Unfortunately the moderates are more likely to stay at home on election day than partisans on either side. In the 2010 mid-terms only 41% of eligible voters found their way to a polling booth, making the country look more divided than it is.
The Congress has been gridlocked. I believe that the gridlock -- caused by party block voting and unwillingness to compromise to get legislation that will pass House, Senate and White House-- is caused by these structural issues in how the members of the House of Representatives are elected.

The solutions:

  • Reduce gerrymandering: "California and Florida passed constitutional amendments to curb partisan gerrymandering in 2010. On July 10th a judge in Florida ruled that the GOP’s creative cartography there had broken the law."
  • Those who have not been voting but are mad at the way the Congress is failing to work should get out and vote. The non-voting registered Democrats and registered Republicans are unlikely to be a rigid in their political views as those who have been voting; the independent voters should vote for the more centrist and moderate candidates.

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