A friend sends along the following modest proposal for reforming the redistricting process.
- Take all 95 counties and the five “cities” that used to be counties. All remaining cities would fold their representation into their logically respective counties (i.e. Fredericksburg into Spotsylvania, Charlottesville into Albemarle, Richmond into Henrico, Falls Church et al. into Fairfax). This would constitute the House of Delegates.
- Take the remaining 40 State Senate seats and ask our parties to run a slate of candidates, up or down, for a European-style party slate (no listing on multiple slates). A percentage of the vote will correspond with the number of members from the slate to represent that party in the Virginia Senate. So if the Democrats get 45%, the Republicans get 45%, and four minor parties each gain 2.5% of the popular vote, that’s 16 Democrats, 16 Republicans, one Libertarian, one Green, one Fairfax First Party (completely guessing here), and one Mickey Mouse.
Advantages would be that you would have a HOD much more responsive to county and city boards. The Senate would be much more responsive to party slates, which is bad if internal party cronyism is a concern, but good if platforms and ideas are a concern as well (ideally, it would force parties to stand on their own two feet and compare and contrast ideas). While the major parties would still dominate the House, smaller parties would now officially find their “voice” in the Senate while forcing a tendency towards a two-party system by nature of the HOD makeup.
Disadvantages? Not sure… itty-bitty counties would be disproportionately represented in the House. Larger localities like Northern Virginia would undoubtedly dominate the Senate. I also have zero idea as to how this would affect the House or Senate in terms of party representation, which is probably good for objectivity’s sake.
Redistricting for U.S. House seats would have to be done the old-fashioned way… but with a much more diverse Senate and an ideologically defused House, this may prove to be the best check-and-balance on the gerrymandering process… as the “human element” can never really be excised.
I love rethinking the fundamentals of government, even if it’s just to prove that we’re currently employing the least-bad method. On the matter of redistricting, though, I’m entirely convinced that our current process is about as bad as it could possibly be. As best as I can tell, even the supposed next step up — “bipartisan redistricting” — is just a euphemism for legislators designing their own districts to ensure their reelection, with the majority party getting a better deal than the minority party. You know, the same bloody thing we’re doing right now.