Republicans are at it again. In their Machiavellian quest for power the Wisconsin Republican party got busted trying to finagle the redistricting process. Republicans moved more than 300,000 voters in and out of districts. A panel of three judges ruled redistricting by Republicans violated citizen voting rights. With the two-party dictatorship we have Democrats and Republicans more concerned with gaining and maintaining power than solving problems.
In Section II Article I of the US Constitution it states that every two years house members shall be elected and, “Representatives…shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers.” What the constitution does not detail is how apportionment is to take place. This oversight by the founding oligarchs left room for corruption and abuse by political parties.
Political parties wasted no time in controlling and corrupting house elections. In 1842 the apportionment process changed when the house voted in Act 4 Stat 491 as a way to set congressional districts which were to be contiguous in territory and population. Districts were to be set equal to the amount of delegates each state elected to the house. The impetus for this act was “partisan fairness” (Andrew Hacker Congressional Districting; The issue of equal representation 1964. Prior to the Act of 1842, if a party had a comfortable state majority they were able to control all the house seats of said state. Following the Act of 1842, after each decennial census, different bills and apportionment acts were enacted. The Apportionment Acts of 1850, 1872, 1911, 1929, and 1967 represent how each political party tried to get control over the congressional districting process.
Today’s congressional district maps look more like Aunt Mable’s varicose veins than any rational system of contiguous district apportionment. Today’s congressional district maps are not contiguous but are drawn along lines of race and socio-economic planes, thereby keeping incumbents in power. The problem is one of accountability. It is increasingly difficult to unseat a sitting representative. Short of sleeping with an underage hooker, the average stay in power for a representative is nine years. There are, of course, those with longer terms – Tom Petri with 34 years and Jim Sensenbrenner, who helped author Patriot Act has been sitting on the throne since 1979.
With a 12 percent approval rating and 8 percent rating on ethics and honesty, Congress is not doing its job (Gallup). Many people are fed up but see no way of changing the system. The good news is there is a way out, but it will take all of us.
Alternative means of apportionment and electing representatives have been known for years. The first step in changing our congressional election process is to repeal the 1967 act requiring single member districts. An organization which has been around for quite some time follows up with a simple plan: “When combined with proportional representation (such as cumulative voting or preference voting), multi-member districts would provide states with a viable method to reduce problems inherent in single-member districts”(fairvote.org). Modern democracies across the world utilize proportional representation or preference voting as the preferred method of electing officials.
Single member districts are ripe with problems. Allowing elected officials to decide these districts is begging for corruption. Combined with a two-party dictatorship, our congressional election process produces stalemate, corruption, unresponsive government and congressional approval ratings lower than the hem of a nun’s habit. The decision as to which direction the country should move is in the hands of the people of Wisconsin as well as the rest of the country. Change will be forced upon us or initiated by us. Do we want to be proactive?
Frank Graduated from UWO, is a former machinist, roofer, and lives with wife Ann.