Connecticut Can End Political Gerrymandering
Connecticut is uniquely positioned to eliminate political gerrymandering, and temper the contentious rhetoric that dominates our political discourse.
The Idea: Vote with the Power of the People Represented
Reapportionment currently happens every ten years to redraw districts, a process entirely controlled by the two political parties. The idea is to eliminate this process and use existing town boundaries to determine the districts. Each town would have at least one representative whose vote would count for as many voters that they represent.
For example according to the 2020 census;
The Groton Representative would cast 38,506 votes
The Stonington Representative would cast 18,322 votes
(Based on Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Minor Civil Divisions in Connecticut: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021 (SUB-MCD-EST2021-POP-09) Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division Release Date: May 2022)
The current system gives both Groton and Stonington two representatives and gives Ledyard (pop 15,359) three representatives looking out for their interests. There may have been a time when each representative needed to be limited to one vote but that is no longer the case.
Why Connecticut First?
Connecticut played a critical role in establishing the constitutional mandate of "one person one vote". The failure of the Connecticut legislature to reapportion itself as instructed by the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims (37 U.S. 533) led to the constitutional convention of 1965.
Our Constitution has the following provisions:
SEC. 4. The house of representatives shall consist of not less than one hundred twenty-five and not more than two hundred twenty-five members, each of whom shall be an elector residing in the assembly district from which he is elected. Each assembly district shall be contiguous as to territory and shall elect no more than one representative. For the purpose of forming assembly districts no town shall be divided except for the purpose of forming assembly districts wholly within the town.
SEC. 5. The establishment of districts in the general assembly shall be consistent with federal constitutional standards.
These two provisions are in conflict under the current standard. Reapportionment seeks to create districts with as close to identical population bases as possible. Maintaining town boundaries would be impossible to do while meeting this requirement. As these two sections are in conflict and the town principal cannot be met, the legislature reapportions for political party gains and to ensure incumbent victories where possible.
Since the enactment of this language there have been legal challenges to each of the redistricting maps based on the "town integrity" principle that seeks to keep towns together in creating districts. Voting with the power of the votes in the district an assemblyperson represents removes the conflict entirely and eliminates the need to reapportion districts. At each new census only the power of the vote the assemblyperson carries would change.
Why you should care
Image Credit: Steven Naas
Political Gerrymandering does more than ensure incumbent victories and enshrine the power of the two parties. It drives extremes and prevents workable centrist ideas that are in the interest of all. In the example above if the arrangement is not just party affiliation but also a spectrum it is easy to see that candidates in the "blue" districts on the right would need to promote far-right ideals in order to get elected in that district, similarly candidates in "red" districts would need to be far left to ensure their victories.
This method of dividing the electorate ensures that when candidates of differing parties meet to discuss possible solutions to problems they are on the extreme ends of the political spectrum and neither represent the interest of the public at large. Discussion quickly turn into labels of communist on one side or nazi on the other and nothing that the majority wants is accomplished.
The means and methods of reapportionment have become increasingly scientific and will lead to further division. We need to end political gerrymandering here in Connecticut and show the country what responsive responsible government can look like.