Bias in Boundaries
|This page shows the difficulty in designing a single-winner district that is fair to all voters. Readers should be aware that a party caucus or primary election lets the hard-core members select their party's nominee and that a safe-seat district lets that nominee win the election without serious competition -- without a real choice for the voters.|
This is a map of a county which elects 3 reps. The rural areas shown in blue have mostly conservative voters. The urban areas shown in red have mostly liberal voters.
|The map might look like this if the liberal party gerrymanders the lines of election districts. There are 2 districts with liberal majorities and 1 with a conservative majority. The conservatives win the rural district by a landslide and narrowly lose the more urban districts.|
|The map might look like this if the conservative party controls redistricting. Two districts have conservative majorities; 1 has a liberal majority. Housing patterns make this more common than the map above. The city boundaries form District 1, more or less. District 2 is the western part of the county and District 3 is the eastern. The result is a council consistently more conservative than the electorate.|
|The map might look like this if both parties share redistricting. Each party gets 1 safe seat in a district drawn to assure election of the blue (or red) candidate. Only the last seat is competitive.
The U.S. Supreme Court (in Bandemer 1986 and Vieth 2004) unfortunately holds that gerrymanders intended to produce safe seats do not violate the Constitution — even though voters in those districts are denied a choice of competitive candidates.
|This map has 3 competitive districts. All 3 voting districts cross the city boundary lines.
Districts intended to elect central Condorcet winners should include diverse populations. A district might be a pie-slice of a large metropolitan region or hold a small city and its surroundings.
“The winning candidate in a homogeneous district is likely to represent the viewpoints of a greater percentage of her/his constituents than the candidate from a 'competitive' district.”
But the winner of a gerrymandered district does not have to worry about losing the general election to the candidate of the other major party. She only needs to get through her own party's primary — where her biggest challenger is likely to be from the party's strongest wing, away from the center. This pushes her to guard her flank by espousing views that appeal to that wing. The winner of a competitive district is more likely to be central.
“Homogeneous districts tend to be more likely to result in the election of candidates who aren't boring, mainstream types and, if nothing else, are more likely to attract candidates who push the envelope.”
But those pols “push the envelope” unchecked by voters because when politicians choose their voters (constituents), the voters have no real choice of candidates, therefore no power and little incentive to participate.
Unfortunately, campaign costs may increase if candidates need to advertise in both urban and rural news media.
Mixed districts sometimes include several towns, one of which has more voters than all the others, leading reps to neglect the small towns. That is less likely under Condorcet's rule; the geographic minorities need not be “abandoned minorities” if the rules make all voters obtainable and valuable.
We've seen how a district can flip suddenly from the liberal party to the conservative party or vice versa if its borders change and it uses the plurality or runoff rules. But if the election uses Condorcet's rule and has many viable candidates, then the change would move more smoothly along the continuum of choices. That would greatly reduce the affect of a gerrymander and so reduce the incentive.
|Electoral Systems||Legislative Systems|