Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

12 December 2015

One Person, One Vote?

The Supreme Court just heard a case on Tuesday, Evenwel v. Abbott, over whether state legislative districts must equalize the number of voters or the number of people.  The particular state in this case is Texas, where districts are apportioned by number of people and where the number of voters per district then differs greatly in some cases.

One person, one vote sounds nice -- until you give it some thought.  Of course children are persons, but we exclude them from voting.  Non-citizens are also not supposed to vote, though many do in some districts, especially those controlled by the Democratic Party.  Many people though eligible to become voters do not register to vote.  Many people who are registered to vote skip many or some elections.  There simply is no sense in which one person gets one vote and one share of representation.  There is no feasible way to achieve any such outcome in the future.

The Constitution originally handled the problem this way:
Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and Excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Consequently, districts for the House of Representatives were equalized for the total number of people, excluding untaxed Indians and two-fifths of slaves.  The free Persons included non-citizens.  The idea at the time was that those men eligible to vote would represent all men with insufficient property to vote, children, women, non-citizens, those bound to service for a term of years, and all slaves.

The 14th Amendment changed the apportionment for the House Districts by only excluding Indians not taxed.  It went on to punish states that denied the right to vote to male citizens of 21 years of age or older by reducing the House representation in proportion to their numbers in ratio to the total number of male citizens 21 years of age and older.  The idea was still clearly that male citizens of 21 years or older would represent all women and all non-citizens.

But how should the House Districts properly be set up?  By extension, how should state legislative districts be set up?  Is it reasonable to assume that those who vote are trying and able to represent the good of those who cannot or will not vote when they cast their vote?  These are substantive questions.  It is not unreasonable for fairly reasonable people to disagree on the answers.

At the time the 14th Amendment was written, it was considered that House Districts should be apportioned in accordance with the number of voters or eligible voters.  That idea was shot down immediately when Representative James Blaine, Republican of Maine, examined the census data and found that since the ratio of men to women was much higher in Western states than in the Eastern states, the Eastern states would lose massive representation if it were based on the number of voters or eligible voters.  Women could not vote, but they were valuable for inflating the numbers of persons for representation, much as slaves had been in the South in the past.

It is now easy for all citizens of age to vote.  Despite this, in many areas very low fractions of the citizens chose to vote.  They are either not sufficiently interested or they are so infused with a sense of futility that they see no point in voting.  Should uninterested people or those so infused with a sense of doom and futility be given representation that they will not use? 

In most cases, such uninterested or futility-bound voters especially occupy highly Democrat districts.  So many Progressive Elitist Democrats believe such non-participating voters or potential voters should be represented because they, the Progressive Elitists, will cast their votes in the interest of the apathetic or doomed-in-futility persons.  Yet these same Progressive Elitists have long claimed to be doing this, especially to minimize economic inequality.  Nonetheless, the Congressional Districts with the worst economic inequality are almost exclusively Democratic and have been for decades.  Clearly, the Progressive Elitist voters, who do vote in high percentages, either do not actually vote to reduce economic inequality or they do so with a complete misunderstanding of the consequences of their votes.  They are clearly horrible at representing the interests of the less educated and less inclined to vote people in their districts.

In general, people who vote either vote their own interest or they vote for the interests of others without actually understanding their interests.  Let us be realists and recognize the facts and human nature.  People barely able to motivate themselves to vote rarely have any understanding of the legitimate role of government, the important political issues of the time, the principles of the candidates, and the manner in which new laws and regulations will affect our futures.  In the era of
Big Government these issues are often much more complex than they were in the past in America.

We should also note that it is clear that people are not good at representing the interests of children.  We see this in the miserable public education system we have, in the huge national debt, in the terrible future liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, and the complete disregard for the effect of compounded economic growth rates on the standard of living of Americans 30 or 40 years from now.  Few voters weigh the future enough to look to future outcomes.  Consequently, they are nearly worthless as representatives of the interests of today's children.

House districts, both federal and state, should simply be apportioned on the basis of the number of voters in the last several elections, assuming they do not exceed the number of eligible voters as they do in some Democrat districts.  This apportions representation according to the numbers of citizens of age to vote who actually have an interest in government.  Yes, many of them will not understand the issues and the consequences of their votes either, but this is the one form in which One Person, One Vote is actually achievable in the form of One Voter, One Vote.

Adding to the weight on political outcomes of those districts with higher voter turn-out is likely to raise the quality of the People's Voice about as high as one can accomplish by any means except an improved education system or other educational efforts.  If the reward in political outcomes is greater for those who already care enough to vote, perhaps they will make a greater effort in the future to think about their votes.  These more thoughtful voters then may even realize a bit greater responsibility not to do harm to others, including those others who do not care to vote.  But realistically, one will be giving a greater voting weight to those who are voting for the interests of those they know best, themselves and perhaps their immediate family and friends.  That is not a bad thing.  Most great wrongs are done when people vote or act for others they do not even know, or when they pretend to do so.

How might one determine the number of voters for these district apportionment purposes?  How about the last four elections in the previous decade with re-apportionment occurring once a decade?  It would be nice if one could just make this the last four elections, but the re-districting effort and battles would be too much.  As for why four elections, the fluctuations in voter turn-out are great, especially the differences between Presidential elections and those when voting on the President does not occur.  The last four elections will include two presidential and two non-presidential elections.  It will include elections when no vote was up in the state for Senator in Congress.  It is a good number to average out, though it may slightly lag overall population shifts.  I would gladly live with that population shift lag for the many benefits of One Voter, One Vote, One Share of Representation.

As for state legislative districts, a variety of formulas are fairly reasonable and determining what formula to use should be left up to the states.  Only very unreasonable state decisions should be corrected by the Supreme Court.  Among the unreasonable apportionments would be those that count non-citizens.  Perhaps counting citizen children should also be considered unreasonable, though I am less adamant about this than about the non-citizen count.

Which brings up the need to also tackle the problem of ineligible voters casting ballots as another aspect of the voter representation problem.

No comments: