chapter  6
44 Pages

Integrity v Deliberation (The Partisanship and Coercion Problems)

From time to time most democratic polities struggle to keep partisans from gaining control over the ground rules of politics. Nowhere is this clearer than in the drawing and redrawing of electoral district boundaries. Most jurisdictions now impose a legal rule of ‘one vote, one value’ (also known as ‘one person, one vote’), which insists on the roughly equal apportionment of voters among districts. Yet this still leaves room to gerrymander. Gerrymanderers draw associations between, for example, working-class or postgraduate-educated citizens on the one hand, and Democratic Party voters on the other. The locations of demographic groups, and therefore of particular voters, can be gleaned from census data. Specialised computer software ramped up the opportunities for sophisticated electoral boundary manipulations starting in the 1980s. At a mouse click, incumbents (if they control electoral mapmaking) can spread opponents out in sub-majority numbers across many districts (‘cracking’) or concentrate them in outsized majorities in very few (‘packing’).2 The results have often represented democracy’s most outlandish manifestations of partisan decision-making, producing exotic figures on electoral maps. Long and slender fingers follow country back roads to unite disparate enclaves of voters.3 And boundaries wend round demographic blocs, serving as Rorschach shapes for scholars of democracy who see parson’s noses,4 nipples,5 and of course salamanders.