Reason.tv: The Legal Way to Rig an Election - Filmmaker Bill Mundell on Gerrymandering

Why bother stuffing ballots when you can just draw districts to ensure your re-election?  The new documentary Gerrymandering exposes what executive producer Bill Mundell calls "the most effective form of manipulating elections short of outright fraud."

Mundell sat down with Reason.tv's Tim Cavanaugh to talk about the new documentary, the consequences of political redistricting, and what can be done to un-rig elections.

Approximately 9 minutes. Interview by Tim Cavanaugh. Camera by Paul Detrick, Zach Weissmueller and Austin Bragg. Edited by Bragg.

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  • Zeb||

    I continue to be amazed that everyone in the country is not totally bullshit that this is the way districts are drawn. How the fuck is it in any way OK or democratic?

  • Fluffy||

    Is this really a negative, though?

    If there are 400,000 people who want a Democrat as rep who get corralled into an oddly-shaped district that lets them elect the Democrat of their dreams, then isn't the system...working? In the sense that it's giving people the representation they actually want.

  • Zeb||

    Hmm, I hadn't thought of it that way. But of course, it doesn't really work out that way. The party in charge of the state legislature when the districts are drawn try to figure out how to draw them both to their own advantage and to the greatest disadvantage possible of the other party.
    The only reasonable way to draw districts is by some completely arbitrary geometric method that considers only the number of people in a certain area.

  • Some Guy||

    If there are 400,000 people who want a Democrat as rep who get corralled into an oddly-shaped district that lets them elect the Democrat of their dreams, then isn't the system...working?

    No, it's not. Not even remotely. The more districts that are uncompetitive, the worse our government is. And the 40% of non-Democrats that were drawn into that district so that their votes would be nullified would not be too happy about it.

  • Charlie Rangel||

    Works for me.

  • ||

    If you draw districts so that your opponent wins by margins of 90% of the vote in a few districts while you win by a still-comfortable 55% in the majority of districts, you can control the legislature with a minority of the votes.

  • Robert||

    What Fluffy writes would be OK if it weren't to elect members of a legislature. If it were just to vote on one or more persons to rule the people in that district alone, then it wouldn't have the unfairness that either partisan or bipartisan (or even incumbent-favoring multipartisan) redistricting does.

  • ||

    If there are 400,000 people who want a Democrat as rep who get corralled into an oddly-shaped district that lets them elect the Democrat of their dreams, then isn't the system...working?

    Which raises the question of why we have geographic districts at all.

    Why not just join the "bloc" of your choice, and when a bloc gets to a set number, it gets a representative in Congress.

  • ||

    A good question. I could believe it is mostly historical due to having to set up polling places?

  • F the districts||

    what they should do is completely change the way the house is elected. They should abolish the districs and have all of of the states congressmen elected by the entire state(on lists). This would increase representation of smaller parties *wink wink and eliminate pork

  • Blane||

    You would have 53 dems from CA... and 32 reps from TX. There would be about 10 or 11 states that wouldn't be clean sweeps for one party or the other.

  • Robert||

    Depends what the rules are. If a party's not allowed to nominate for as many seats as are up for election, then you wouldn't have sweeps unless by write-in.

  • Joe M||

    No no, you still only get to vote for ONE person, and the top 53 voter getters would be elected. That would create far more diversity in representation. If all the libertarians could vote together as a bloc, they could easily get at least one rep in the bigger states, rather than a piddling 1% in dozens of separate races.

  • creech||

    You could work it so if, say, the GOP got 40% of the vote, then they'd get a proportional number of congressmen, even if 53 Dems beat their highest vote getter. That way, if Libertarians got 2% of the statewide vote, their highest vote getter would get one seat in Congress.

  • ||

    Yes, we need proportional voting in the House.

  • ||

    Proportional representation is incompatible with Democracy. In countries with proportional systems, the parties end up choosing who gets to sit in the legislatures. Nobody is actually elected by the voters. So the politicians owe all their loyalty to the party.

  • ||

    Not if you use the Hare system of proportional representation.

    The two compalints I have heard about it are that 1) American voters are too stupid to understand it (Palm Beach County, dimpled chads etc) and 2) American officials are too dishonest to pass up the the opportunity to rig the counting (which takes brigades of pointy-headed mathemeticians apparently).

  • ||

    But your complaint against Party-List PR is valid.

  • ChrisO||

    All this stuff is great in theory, if you redraw American politics from scratch. But in reality, any attempt to modify our congressional election process is going to be done to benefit the sitting congressmen at the expense of challengers.

  • zoo keeper||

    Why not just have a team of monkeys throw poo of varying color against a map until the map is covered.

  • F the districts||

    o yea and that redistricting thing becomes a total non-issue

  • Robert||

    Partisan gerrymandering is tricky in that you have to anticipate just how far you can push it. If you sprinkle the districts with just enough to get a small edge for your party in a large number of districts, you can wield a gigantic advantage in the legislature as long as the elections are fairly close in overall popular vote in the state. However, if you do that and there's a big enough groundswell for the other party statewide in an election, then it's suddenly an enormous advantage for the other party. If OTOH you concentrate your partisans heavily enough to get some districts really solid, you lose the opp'ty to win even more seats. The latter is close to the bipartisan, incumbent-favoring gerrymandering. Unfortunately we usually wind up with some combination of partisan and incumbency gerrymandering.

    I'm running for NY's assembly, AD 80, and I propose that districts be drawn by a computer program commissioned for another state so there'd be no chance of hanky panky.

  • ||

    Why not have the districts for each state drawn by the legislature of another, randomly selected state?

    Imagine the hi-jinx! The networks of influence suddenly rendered useless! The frantic attempts to get something on, or to, the members of a legislature you've never even heard of! The wailing! The gnashing of teeth! The apoplexy!

  • ||

    I'm all for purely geographic/population-based districting. Someone tell me that somehow the Voting Rights Act won't be used to counter this effort.

  • cynical||

    Because I'm brutal to equine carcasses, I'll just point out the replacing each representative by a randomly selected citizen or council of citizens would neutralize most of the benefits of gerrymandering, provided that districts are of roughly equal population (or, alternatively, if the drawing is state-wide)

  • ||

    [Disclaimer: Voting for anyone to give them the 'right' to pick over my bones is not my idea of, well, anyway]

    In Costa Rica, which, as far as I know, is the only country in the entire Cosmos to elect a 'libertarian' to a legislative assembly (Otto Guevara being the first)uses lists.

    Each party assembles lists by provinces, which have #1, #2 etc, and according to the proportion of popular vote, within the province, gain that many seats in the national assembly.

    Has Costa Rica become a libertarian paradise? Not hardly. The party fell apart because...well, its a long story.

  • ||

    anyone wanting to more more about this sad history can write me at osopolitico@hotmail.com

  • bb||

    (\ /)
    ( . .)
    C(")(") BUNNY. ♥

  • deep thoughts||

    Why is Dr. Rodney McKay doing interviews for Reason?

  • ||

    Roger Simon and Lionel Chetwynd had some interesting thoughts about this doc:

    http://www.pjtv.com/v/4284

  • Matthew Barnhart||

    freaking politicians. What happened to this country?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    At least in California, gerrymandering for state legislative districts was eliminated.

    I expect the new districts to be shaped like rectangles (aside from the easternmost districts along the California-Nevada state line).

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  • PIRS||

    How about electing all members of the House in an "at large" way but the voter can only vote for ONE candidate. Then if a state has X number of representetatives the X candidates with the highest number of popular votes all win.

  • Robert||

    That can come out funny. Like if a state or other jurisdiction gets to elect 5, and one gets 99% of the vote, so the others are contenders out of the remaining 1%. And that sort of thing is likely to happen frequently.

  • Wayne Smith||

    Proportional representation -- two big words meaning "you get what you vote for", or in other words, "democracy". Proportional voting is used in most developed countries, and has been for most of the last century.

  • UGG||

    Yes, we need proportional voting in the House.

  • ||

    Yes, we need PR voting until such time as mass democracy and (finally)the State can be dissolved. First-past-the-post supporters seem to have some semi-romanticized notions about some "link" between them and some specific lying, thieving wh*re of a politician. With PR
    you generally vote for policies instead of personalities.

  • ||

    List-PR counting is as simple as what we have now. Single transferable Vote, however, can get complicated.

  • ||

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  • دردشة||

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  • Bay Area Chimney Sweep||

    Wow this is crazy haha! What has happened to this country?

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