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The Difference between Voters and Dirt

Jen Sorensen
© Jen Sorensen

Well, it looks like it backfired. Republican plans to “reform” our electoral college voting system to make it even more unfair – and to boost Republican chances of winning the next presidential election, even if they lose the popular vote – couldn’t stand up to the glare of attention it received.

And the difference? Voters sometimes speak out.



  1. Mario Savio wrote:

    I have to say that this comic is a little bit misleading about the nature of gerrymandering. What its describing, a redrawing of district lines to concentrate a large number of people in one district and only a few in another, is illegal and has been out of practice since Wesberry v. Sanders in 1964. In that case the Georgia state legislature’s concentrating voting power in rural areas was ruled unconstitutional. Since then the one person, one vote precedent has been the standard for drawing districts meaning that all districts have roughly the same population.

    What the Republicans are trying to do is just another case of partisan gerrymandering with perhaps more of an emphasis on race (although they’ll insist that its based entirely on political parties, which is legal).

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Gerrymandering is not just about the number of people in a district. It is redrawing congressional lines for political gain, and is very much alive and well.

    Previously, gerrymandering only applied to congressional districts. The comic is about changing the rules for awarding electoral college votes that will make the presidential election susceptible to gerrymandering.

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  3. TJ wrote:

    I understand the major issues with this incredibly partisan proposal, but the idea of going away from the all-or-nothing concept for electoral votes sounds like something that could work. Base it off percentage of popular vote maybe?

    They might have had a better chance to get away with this plan if they had given the “extra” 2 votes to the winner of the popular vote in the state rather than to the winner of the most districts. As it is, because of gerrymandering the plan looks ridiculous.

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  4. Jeff wrote:

    While the RNC has backed off of this plan nationally, that does nothing to stop Republican-controlled state legislatures and Republican governors from enacting this kind of thing at a state level. What this amounts to, in my opinion, is stealing elections by disenfranchising targeted groups that tend to vote Democratic. Really, the electoral college is outdated and needs to either be refined or completely thrown out, and we should go to a popular vote system.

    Besides, if we go to the method of district-by-district winners, how are news channels supposed to display that on a giant ice rink in real time?

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  5. Michael wrote:

    But there is implicit gerrymandering based on numbers when you’re talking about total representation: California has 53 districts for ~38 millions people (717K per district). Wyoming has 1 district for 576K. Thus, Wyoming’s representative has more implicit weight.

    It gets even worse when you’re talking about the electoral college, because Senators also count. So California’s 55 electoral votes become a ratio of ~690K people per vote. Wyoming’s 3 become 192K people per vote.

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  6. wildwood wrote:

    My biggest problem with changing anything today is the people doing the changing. If, and it’s a big if, someone can convince me that it would be done fairly and completely, I would then reluctantly agree it should be done.

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  7. ebdoug wrote:

    Michael: I would hate to see state rights completely taken away no matter what the outcome of the Two senators, one representatives is.

    Monday, February 4, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink
  8. Michael wrote:

    Eva, I wasn’t arguing for that at all. I was just providing a counterpoint to Mario’s claim in 1. That is, I was pointing out that the effect of awarding electoral votes based solely on districts would involve some implicit gerrymandering based on numbers.

    I think there are plenty of things that could be done to improve the electoral process. Making it even more unfair to those who live in high-population urban areas would not be on my list, though.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Well I have news, it is not only republicans who use this practice. In my very blue state, as soon as a non democrat wins a congressional seat the districts are redrawn to make it less likley the incumbant can be re-elected. It’s a problem for all. I know districts need to be redrawn from time to time as populations expand or shift, but I think the real test should be are they intentionally trying to change the voter base to favor a different party.
    On the electoral college I think it should be repealed or done away with. I’m fairly confident that our education system has improved the average citizens level of knowledge and reading ability to the rough equivelent of a educated person of the late 1700’s – early 1800’s.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ah PSgt, and you were being so very good about avoiding those false equivalences for so long. Nobody is saying that both parties aren’t guilty of gerrymandering. The issue here is whether we want gerrymandering to STRONGLY affect the outcome of the presidential election. Isn’t it bad enough that it affects congressional elections as much as it does?

    But you redeem yourself by saying that the real solution is to eliminate the electoral college system. Elect the president by national popular vote. States will still get their senators to hang on to some state power. But the current system where only evenly divided states get any attention at all in the presidential election is ludicrous beyond comprehension and harks back to the day when our founders identified more with their state than with their country.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  11. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I agree. It really P’s me off when election after election comes down to 3-4 states. Popular vote is the best way. Every election my wife says to me, “so why do we bother to vote for president again?” I always have a tough time trying to come up with a good reason and usually end up saying “it’s just the way it is.”

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    PSgt, the real answer to “why do we bother to vote for president” is so that your candidate will (also) win the popular vote, and thus get that elusive “mandate”. Electing someone isn’t enough, they also need some political capital to get anything done.

    I think too many people see the goal as “get person X elected” and after that they think they have done their part. But getting some particular person elected is just a means to an end.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink