“Compromise is the essence of democracy, but the far right and far left are too mad to realize it.”
American political leaders always demand that foreign governments conduct “free and fair” elections. But never do these same political leaders acknowledge that elections right here in America are neither free nor fair.
To be fair, an election must actually be competitive. Uncompetitive, rigged elections usually conjure up images of Putin in Russia or Mubarak’s reign in Egypt. But uncompetitive, rigged elections are not limited to overseas.
Rigged, uncompetitive elections are very common in our democracy. No, they aren’t controlled by dictators nor are they riddled with fraud. But they definitely are not fair.
Through the process of gerrymandering the political parties design Congressional districts to favor their party. Gerrymandering reverses the election process. Politicians pick their voters. It’s rigging the system to favor one party over the other thus making an election uncompetitive thus unfair. Of the 435 Congressional districts in the United States only 55 are competitive.
And as technology has improved so too has the parties’ ability to track voting behavior and map where voters live. More information helps the parties better design distinctly partisan districts.
As National Journal Columnist Reid Wilson explains:
“In every election between 1900 and 1950, an average of 39 seats changed party hands, punctuated by major turnovers in 1912, 1914, 1920, 1922, 1932, and 1938. Between 1952 and 1978, an average of 21 seats changed hands in every election. And since 1980, only an average of 18 seats have changed hands in each election; not counting the six wave cycles (1980, 1994, and 2010 for Republicans; 1982, 2006, and 2008 for Democrats), only 6.5 seats changed hands in the average election over the past 30 years.
In the days before advanced mapping technology, double-digit gains were the norm: Between 1900 and 1978, there were only seven elections in which the gaining party picked up fewer than a net of 10 seats. But as technology improved, those stalemate elections became more common; nine of the past 13 elections have seen one party gain a net of fewer than 10 seats.”
Competitive Congressional elections are increasingly rare. Instead of demanding free and fair elections overseas, let’s start right here with our own elections.
Another essay you may be interested in… “Why Gerrymandering is Bad for America”