Published online Jan. 4, 2018
To address gerrymandering, James Cunningham ’73 recommends having members of Congress elected on a statewide basis rather than a district-wide basis (Inbox, Nov. 8). He says it would be “[s]imple, clear, sensible, incorruptible” and "true and effective democracy for America.” I disagree.
Yes, this system would be simple and clear. But sensible? Instead of having representatives elected by voters from the local geographic region they represent, they would be elected statewide by voters in the largest population centers, i.e., the big cities. For example, the numerous voters of Philadelphia (and New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, etc.) would choose all of the representatives for their state, leaving residents of the less populous regions with no effective say. Incorruptible? If there is ballot fraud in Chicago or some other metropolis (perish the thought!), under Cunningham’s proposal it would infect the entire state, not just Chicago.
“True and effective democracy for America”? Why should Cunningham stop at abolishing congressional districts? Why not have all the members of both the House and Senate elected by the entire U.S. population, “first-past-the-post”? That way temporary mass sentiment could uniformly dictate the identity of all election winners throughout the country, not just those in places most swayed by current trends.
Finally, Cunningham sees his proposal as the solution to the power of political parties to narrow the choice of candidates. But how is this so? If the parties select the candidates for statewide Senate races, why would they not do the same for statewide House seats? Wouldn’t this leave Cunningham’s “centrist nonpartisan majority” even less able to muster the money and manpower to put forward their preferred candidates?