Gerrymandering is solvable. But not the way you think.

It’s an existential threat to the USA. Most current proposals for solving it are flawed. There is a better way.

Here’s the problem.

According to the latest projections from Decision Desk HQ, if the US House of Representatives elections were held today, Democrats would get 54% of the vote. A resounding rejection of Trump, right? Not so fast; they’d get just 47% of the seats.

The obvious solutions won’t work well.

I’m certainly not the only one sounding the alarm on this. Books like “Ratf**ked” by @davedaley3; papers like @katherinegehl and @MichaelEPorter’s account of the anticompetitive “politics industry” (which I reviewed); columns like @Michelleinbklyn’s (that is, Michelle Goldberg, the new NYT opinion columnist) recent “Tyranny of the Minority”; entire conferences like those run by the MGGG at Tufts; all of them are treating this with the urgency it deserves. And of course, people like @mlatner, @rickhasen, @rob_richie, and others have been on this issue for years.

PR can slay the Gerrymander.

But there are solutions that would really work.

So, in order to be realistic, a solution to this problem should be able to appeal to the majority of voters whose votes are wasted under the current voting method; to most incumbents from at least one of the two major political parties; and, ideally, also to those eligible voters who have decided not to participate in politics for lack of meaningful options. In other words, it should solve the problem of wasted votes, without creating new problems with ballot complexity, unaccountable party insiders, or disruptive transitions.

PLACE voting summary

Here’s a quick summary of how PLACE voting would work. (If you want more finicky details, you can read my earlier article or the technical description.)

  • Unless you opt out, your ballot would then be “delegated” to your chosen candidate. He or she will have previously publicly declared a slate of other endorsed candidates within his or her party, so that if he or she is eliminated, your vote will transfer to another candidate on that slate. (Within the slate, transfers happen in order of direct votes. If the whole slate is eliminated, the ballot goes on to other unendorsed members of the same party, and then to endorsed candidates from other parties.)
  • The transfer process would work in a way (based on STV) that ensures that there would be exactly one winner per district (one of the top two in that district), and also minimizes wasted votes.
  • Once winners were chosen from each district, they would be given “extra territory” so that each district is in the overlapping territories of one winner per winning party.

Advantages of PLACE

This method has several advantages, aside from fixing gerrymandering and minimizing wasted votes.

  • By the same token, it’s easy to simulate the result of past elections, assuming that voters would have voted similarly to the actual election. This can reassure both voters and politicians that the results are reasonable — basically the same as FPTP, only more proportional.Note that since gerrymandering tends to favor Republicans overall, a more-proportional result will also be more Democratic.
  • Candidates with a particular connection to a particular community or set of issues could pull in votes from across the state. This would encourage higher turnout and increase minority representation. Even if a particular candidate like that got not enough (or significantly more than enough) votes to win, any votes which didn’t go to elect them would be transferred to other candidates they’d endorsed. Thus they could use those endorsements to make sure that their votes continued to support candidates sympathetic to their community or interest group. Thus, the voting method itself would help minority groups organize and strengthen the voice of their leaders.
  • Representation is still local, and this method is compatible with all existing US law (including the 1967 federal statute requiring single-member districts).
  • Candidates are individually accountable to voters, and voters in practice have the power to throw out even well-ensconced party insiders.

Game plan

Let’s say you agree that this is a great idea. Is it feasible?

What you can do

Congratulations! If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a bit of a n̶e̶r̶d̶ …um… wonk, like me. So what can you do (besides, of course, clapping for this article and sharing it with your friends)?

Opinion, info, and research on improved voting systems and democracy. Building website to use these voting systems securely for private elections.