Re: Redistricting

1

The answer is multiple member districts.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 1:04 PM
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What is it about the computer-generated districts that seems less than ideal?


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 1:39 PM
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Well, it seemed like he took existing districts and made them compact, which seems like it might preserve existing gerrymandering to a degree, or might lose basic principles of districting. I don't actually know what the basic principles are, because anything I can think of - keep a voting bloc together, like a minority-majority district - seems like it has a counter-argument - but then you're diluting their influence beyond that district (creating minority-minority districts or whatever EK was getting at.) Anyway, if there are basic principles of districting, I don't see why compactness would respect them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 1:48 PM
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They could be ideally compact from a mathematical point of view but break up communities in some way. Although in effect I have the impression it's hard to draw boundaries that don't do that at all.

Representational systems are always unsatisfactory in some way - Arrow's theorem. Japan had multi-member districts, but it incentivized opposition parties to fragment and leave the LDP as the only powerful party; the lower house got rid of them in the 90's. The German style (single districts plus thresholded PR) to my mind balances out different deficiencies the best - you don't have the chaos of full PR or the stasis of single districts, and it allows for a relatively viable multiparty coalition system.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 1:49 PM
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For a state district, I got split from the city and shoved in with a bunch of suburbanites. This annoys me, despite not being able to remember the name of either person who represented me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 1:51 PM
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I don't actually know what the basic principles are

There is only one: to maximize gains for the party in charge. Computer-generated districts would be a massive improvement over the mess that North Carolina is currently.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 1:57 PM
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The German style (single districts plus thresholded PR) to my mind balances out different deficiencies the best - you don't have the chaos of full PR or the stasis of single districts, and it allows for a relatively viable multiparty coalition system.

For purposes of party representation Germany is pure PR with a five percent threshold. The PR slots are assigned so as to to make the total number of seats each party gets equal to their party list score. For example, assuming one hundred seats, fifty each PR and single member, if Party A wins 45 seats with fifty percent of the vote, Party B 5 seats with thirty percent and Party C 0 seats with twenty percent the end numbers of seats will still be 50-30-20.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:01 PM
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The German style (single districts plus thresholded PR) to my mind balances out different deficiencies the best - you don't have the chaos of full PR or the stasis of single districts, and it allows for a relatively viable multiparty coalition system.

Agreed, but even that system can produce quirky outcomes.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:06 PM
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Let people pick their own districts. It might not work, but if it doesn't you get some amusing chaos.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:09 PM
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For example, assuming one hundred seats, fifty each PR and single member, if Party A wins 45 seats with fifty percent of the vote, Party B 5 seats with thirty percent and Party C 0 seats with twenty percent the end numbers of seats will still be 50-30-20.

Though that has only been the case since 2013.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:11 PM
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We should replace the current system with one where everyone has to vote for Lani Guinier.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:22 PM
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11: Please, Walt, we're trying to make this place more welcoming to the young people. Maybe re-cast your joke to reference The Voice or something.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:24 PM
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As Halford will find out once MY plan is in operation, both houses of the Mexican congress have a combination of districts and proportional.


Posted by: ccarp | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:24 PM
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Even before the overhang thing was changed the effects were pretty minor though in a very tight election they could be decisive.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:25 PM
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And in any case in the example I gave there wouldn't have been any overhang seats - 45 with fifty percent of the vote, not 50 with forty five percent.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:28 PM
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We should redistrict by age instead of geography. Each cohort gets to vote for its own candidate, instead of the youngs getting shut out and the olds dominating everything.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:32 PM
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Multi-member districts where every voter gets as many votes as there are members, and you can use more than 1 vote per candidate. So, if in a district with 5 members, 40% of the eligible voters are members of a minority group, they could pretty well guarantee 2 successful minority candidates (if they can agree on who they should be and their turnout is high enough) by giving 3 votes on one of the candidates and 2 votes on the other. If, instead, this minority community is pretty much divided into 2 ideological blocs, members of each bloc would give all their votes to 1 of 2 candidates, each of whom would get 20% of the total votes cast.


Posted by: marcel | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 2:38 PM
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The basic principle of assigning people to districts should be that all votes are equal, that there is no differentiation between people on the basis of race, party, sex, creed, wealth, hair color, or anything else. "All men are created equal." (Where "men" has come to mean "people.") The only possible way to do this is by having a computer do the assignment, running a program that is available for the public to inspect for violations of that principle.

This means NOT taking race into account to attempt to create "minority-majority districts." Those are just racial segregation by another name and in a different direction. Like affirmative action and DADT, such measures may be necessary on the path to the goal of true equality, but ultimately they violate that goal.

True, a congressperson should represent the interests of the population of his district, but we determine that by having him campaign and them vote, not by cherry-picking that population in a smoke-filled room.


Posted by: Bob Munck | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 3:19 PM
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Maybe keep current districts, but only allow women to vote.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 3:29 PM
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On a rota: women only, men only, minorities only, whites only,retirees only, prime working age only, women only,...


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 3:48 PM
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17: That'd also be nice. Is there any research on optimal district size (in number of seats)? If in the US we did it by state, people in large states would be voting for 20+ slots; anything below the state level would be vulnerable to gerrymandering.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:01 PM
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This is a good Monkey Cage post about how shape isn't a good guide to fairness.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:13 PM
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I'm all for 19. A few years of no male voting, a few years of no white voting -- even if you had to alternate, you'd straighten out the country in record time.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:37 PM
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In general, this is a solution to the problem of "funny-looking districts," which is not actually the same as "gerrymandering." This would be great if the main problem with voting districts was that the maps had too many scandalous-looking appendages.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:41 PM
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Good-looking compact districts are a good way to get overconcentration of liberals -- urban districts where Democrats have giant, squandered vote advantages, basically electoral ghettos.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:44 PM
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23 I really don't think the country would get straightened out if one third of the time we had what the white male electorate would produce, one third of the time what the white female electorate would produce, and so on and so forth. It would work out to Tea Party on steroids rule a third of the time, 'moderate' Republican rule a third of the time and liberal democrat of various flavors a third of the time. President Ted Cruz and Speaker Steve King followed by President Susan Collins and Majority Leader Kelley Ayotte followed by...


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:47 PM
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Sir, you have misunderstood my political program. I propose periodic withdrawal of the franchise from those who have ever held it. There is to be no future period where the white male electorate takes sole rein. They had their chance.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:50 PM
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24 is well-put.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:52 PM
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Bee tee dubs, Rush Limbaugh's punching bag Sandra Fluke managed to earn herself a spot in the general election for a coastal/Westside state Senate seat. We have a top-two primary (another solution to a non-existent problem) so the general will be between two Dems. I'm supposed to have a call with her opponent next week but I may just bow out re:embarrassment of riches.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 4:58 PM
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I'm with 9, only more so. Let people choose their representatives, and each gets as many votes in the legislature as they got votes from the people. Maybe max it out at some reasonable level so you can't have Justin Bieber as the only representative. Nothing about geography or demography enters into it. Why should these things determine?

Maybe make a threshold under which your voters have to pick someone else (maybe Australian style).

Objections based on "but it's too complicated" fall in the face of the awesome power of computers.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 5:33 PM
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I'm still trying to decide who to vote for in the VA-8 Dem primary this Tuesday. Right now I am leaning toward voting for Hope as Change isn't running.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 5:56 PM
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Even before the overhang thing was changed the effects were pretty minor though in a very tight election they could be decisive.

Like the 1994 Bundestag election, where the Kohl government probably would have fallen without the overhang seats.

(Isn't everyone else FASCINATED by this bilateral exchange?)


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 6:54 PM
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We have Yet Another Special Election coming up, this time for our state rep. I got polled on the subject (I think I must have ended up on a "will answer political polls" list of phone numbers) of four Democratic primary candidates, none of whom I had heard of before. The one mailer we've gotten so far took one position I hadn't seen from an actual politician before: "It's time for affordable housing... It's time to use height and density to maximum effect."


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 7:30 PM
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urban districts where Democrats have giant, squandered vote advantages, basically electoral ghettos.

I've been wondering if the new urbanists have dealt with this. Our current electoral system seems particularly poor at dealing with interests and policy issues of an increasingly urban country. The current system results in too little policy competition around issues that matter for cities and poor national representation of urban interests. Would large districts with multiple reps take care of that?


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 06- 4-14 9:45 PM
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The New Urbanists proper are mostly architects, so no, they haven't really dealt with this much. It is an important issue, though, and will become more so as the current trends toward an increasingly urban population continue.

I think the main issue is really at the state level, in that the use of states as fundamental units for many purposes leads to distortions that favor rural areas over cities. Within states, it's certainly possible for legislative districts to basically be based on population and vary widely in area (in Alaska, for example, 17 of the 40 State House districts are partly or entirely within the Municipality of Anchorage, which is proportional to the amount of the state population that lives there). Obviously gerrymandering at the state level can distort this, with some districts potentially containing both urban and surburban/rural parts. Then at the federal level, since every state gets at least one Representative, states with small populations (most of which are predominantly rural) have disproportionate influence in both House and Senate, and there's plenty of opportunity for shenanigans in drawing the House districts as well.

Multiple-representative districts could potentially help this on the House side for larger states, but for small states with only Representative they would do nothing. And then of course there's the Senate, which already works that way but benefits rural rather than urban areas. Overall I think the real problem is the way the whole system is organized around the states, and I don't see that changing anytime in the foreseeable future.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 1:14 AM
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Thanks Teo. I wonder if parliamentary bureaucracy is better in this regard. States are less important, but are the parties less constrained by rural interests? Certainly the sway of farmers in Europe would suggest not.


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 1:48 AM
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I agree with teo. Bigger problems on the urban representation front are the Senate, the suburbs, mass incarceration, and to some extent where the incarcerated are counted. These days rural voters are more a tiny, courted special interest than a big bloc of the population.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:06 AM
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Single state House districts can end up being much bigger than the average House district, if they fall just shy of the cut-off for a second.

States have to have both legislative houses based on population, and so the effects of gerrymandering will necessarily be less than for the federal legislature.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:26 AM
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The underlying problem at the federal level in the US is that the country is too damn big. Anyway you slice the cake you're going to wind up either with too many members for a working deliberative body or too many constituents in each district so that "representatives" are completely remote and isolated from them. ISTR that Madison identified this as a potential issue for the future somewhere in the Federalist Papers, but he didn't have an answer, just assumed it away.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:37 AM
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39 gets it right.

I always liked how the UK parliamentary districts actually have names. Everyone is the representative from Nantwich And The Eastern Hinterlands. Are UK districts pretty much at the upper limit of size, bigger than which the names would no longer make sense?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:39 AM
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39 gets it totally wrong, actually. The problem with the federal government certainly isn't meaningfully that the representatives are representing too many people. In my view the whole idea that you have closer intimacy with a small-scale representative who represents only a few people is completely misguided; the big problem in democracy is just people paying attention, and reducing, not increasing the number of elected officials is key. The Senate is totally anti-democratic, but that's a problem with drawing the boundaries of the states.

I actually think we'd be better off if we reduced the number of House districts so that there were only 100 or so of them. That would result both in more competitive House races and more attention given to each House race.

Of course, more broadly, democracy is a joke and had failed, but that's another story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:46 AM
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39: Also disagree. We have similar levels of polarization and voter-representative distance at the state level too. As below, so above.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:51 AM
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40. I think UK constituencies are close to the limit, but not yet there. The other day, on the strength of a leaflet through the door, I sat in somebody's living room and had a twenty minute conversation with my MP, one on one. We resolved nothing, but I actually felt better for it, in that I had been able to articulate concerns in some detail rather than just exchanging slogans. I doubt if that would have been possible if the constituency was three times the size.

On the other hand the House of Commons is arguably too big, at 650.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:52 AM
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42. Do state representatives actually make any effort to connect with people? If not, what would happen if one of them did? Also if not, is there a better explanation than 41.3?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:56 AM
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The last fucking thing I want is to talk to politicians. If you're a private-firm lawyer, they will come to your offices to raise money and boy are they boring. I'd rather talk to Bob McManus.

Really, the only thing I care about is making politicians more beholden to groups that I care about, like labor. Small-size districts don't really do much for that, per se.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:56 AM
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they will come to your offices to raise money

Maybe that's the real problem. As I understand it in some countries politicians spend less than 75% of their time asking people for money.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:58 AM
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I'm actually fairly optimistic about our democracy. It seems to me that the anger-addicted Fox News watching tea electorate is aging out, and that the generations following will be substantially less right wing. There's the problem of how much damage gets done in the interim, and the tea faction has to be fought at every turn, but the future does not belong to them.

I don't think the US is too big, just that certain states are. People here who live in those states reflect, I think it's fair to say, a nearly unanimous view in those states that I am wrong about them being too big.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:01 AM
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You know what are truly a joke? Judicial elections. I'm a lawyer who knows a bunch of judges and regularly practices in our local court system, and I had no idea whatsoever who to vote for in Tuesday's most recent round of judicial elections. Like, no independent relevant information at all (I just used the County Bar's "qualification" guide, like everyone sane should do). It's only a little bit better for most other offices (who would make a great Secretary of State of California? What exactly does the Secretary of State of California do?? I mean I can actually answer that question, but just barely, and I don't think I'm blowing my own horn when I say I'm in the top 1% of knowledge on that issue).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:04 AM
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Fuck everyone and everything. Proletarian dictatorship now. Empty the country between the 105th and 95th meridians and replace people with bison. Disenfranchise anyone who has ever, ever, ever, in writing claimed to be "fiscally conservative, socially liberal." I got no sleep last night.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:06 AM
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At least I don't need to vote for County Weed Control Officer anymore.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:07 AM
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50. Why, has your state legalised the stuff?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:10 AM
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The need for huge amounts of money is a direct consequence of the size of the districts. A California senator represents more people that a US House member, and has to run a seriously expensive campaign. And most voters don't know anything more than (a) what they see in the ads and (b) party labels. I suppose union members get a newsletter announcing an endorsement -- which would matter in a primary race where there's a significant unionized population.

We didn't have a primary race in my legislative district, but my paralegal had one in hers: it was a three way race -- A won with 638; B got 521; C got 116. You bet they came to her house more than once, and they weren't asking for money. There wasn't Koch money in this race, but was there in some others, and it basically had no positive (for the Kochs) effect at all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:10 AM
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OK, so if you have a political job where you represent 400 people in a village in Montana, you don't have to spend money to get it, but guess what -- it's not a very important job. If you have an important political job, that actually affects a lot of people, and you don't have free public advertising (actually, even if you do), it's going to cost money.

The idea of small scale political representation just doesn't work for a big country, and we need to drop that fucking fantasy (which has lots of other harmful consequences, like crazy localism that makes it impossible to do anything big) and get to work not on having politicians come over for coffee but on having them obey the wishes of organized groups we care about instead of organized business interests we're opposed to. That's it, end of story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:15 AM
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48: Oh my god, yes. In NY, trial court positions are basically political patronage, because voters (including sophisticated litigators) have no idea who the candidates are, and so getting the right party endorsement gets you on the bench. And they're not consistently terrible, but they're not reliably good.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:20 AM
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RARRHGHGH!! Where is my coffee! Let's wipe out local government and build some fucking infrastructure here! Do it now!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:21 AM
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I think the Missouri plan for picking judges has some merit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:21 AM
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State legislature is a big deal. This was a largely urban district, and the retired union member (teacher, who was the union lobbyist for a decade or so) who won is going to vote as progressive as nearly anyone your system can send to Sacramento.

I'm not saying you can have a system like this in California. But the bigger fantasy is that you can organize Californians well enough to take on the big money interests. You've been able to get past tea veto/control -- demographics have done a lot of that work and will continue to do so -- but I don't see much hope for getting beyond neoliberalism.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:22 AM
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What is the evidence that any small state in the US is doing a better job at avoiding neoliberalism than e.g. LA County, where each county supervisor (there are 5 of them) represents a population almost twice the size of Montana.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:25 AM
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I don't like judicial elections either. Ours are non-partisan, and actually there was a big stink about one of our 5 candidates for JP having gone and gotten a bunch of endorsements, and whether that presented a problem under the canons.

Surely, though, LA and NYC have candidate forums, where the various people vying for a judicial seat answer questions. Ours get posted on the internet, so if someone wanted to form an opinion, they could do some research.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:30 AM
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I always liked how the UK parliamentary districts actually have names. Everyone is the representative from Nantwich And The Eastern Hinterlands. Are UK districts pretty much at the upper limit of size, bigger than which the names would no longer make sense?

I don't think so (though I do think they are at the upper limit of where it makes sense to have a direct representative as opposed to a party list or similar ). I think it's more a question of the relative lack of gerrymandering, so they tend to correspond quite well to already named, or at least easily named, places. It's a lot easier to do when don't have districts that are shaped entirely by a desire to concentrate certain groups of voters in as few districts as possible.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:33 AM
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58 -- It's always kind of fun to explain to out-of-state L&E lawyers how we don't have at-will employment here, and that out-of-state venue provisions in arbitration clauses are void. Our Sup Ct famously rejected Citizens United, and got summarily reversed for it (which revealed, at least, what the USSC is).

Obviously, the struggles are and have to be ongoing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:35 AM
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I dunno. California doesn't really have at-will employment for most practical purposes, though we still have the formal doctrine. I'd expect something like the reverse to be true in Montana though THIS MAY BE BIG CITY STEREOTYPING.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:39 AM
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Yeah, people are often wrong about Montana -- confusing it with Wyoming, I guess -- because they forget/don't know about Butte and the unions.

Enough on that, though. This just popped up in my inbox. Seriously fucked up.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:44 AM
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Jesus! Nearly as fucked up as this.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:27 AM
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Disenfranchise anyone who has ever, ever, ever, in writing claimed to be "fiscally conservative, socially liberal."

Yes please


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:31 AM
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59 To get on the ballot for an NYC judicial election you have to be nominated by a special party convention. That makes the actual elections meaningless except as a way for providing a figleaf for payoffs to the party bosses in the form of campaign jobs and consultantcy contracts.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 6:55 PM
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