As if we didn’t know.
The Washington Post recently ran an article documenting what virtually every sentient American knows: thanks to gerrymandering and residential “sorting,” elections at every level are increasingly uncompetitive–when they are contested at all.
Here’s the lede
Fewer state legislative elections were hotly contested between Democrats and Republicans in 2014 than at any time in the last 40 years, according to a new study that offered more evidence of a historically polarized electorate.
The analysis of election results from last year found less than 5 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state House or state Senate district where the two leading candidates finished within 5 percentage points of each other.
At the same time, the number of races that don’t even draw competition is on the rise. Nearly a third of voters lived in state Senate districts in which only one candidate ran, while more than 40 percent lived in state House districts with only one option. Those numbers are far higher than four decades ago, when less than a quarter of residents lived in one-candidate districts.
The question, of course, is: what do we do about it?
There are no “good guys” here–both parties aggressively seek advantage, and when in a position to call the shots, both can be counted on to draw a map as favorable as computing power can devise.
It’s common–even fashionable–to berate citizens who don’t vote. But let’s be fair: why take time out of your day to visit a polling place if there are no contests?
It won’t solve the whole problem, but the first step to re-engaging voters must be to remove redistricting from the partisan political process. Here in Indiana, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters are devoting themselves to getting that done. (They are holding a forum at the Indiana Historical Society on June 6th, devoted to the issue.)
It’s an uphill battle, but it’s one we all need to join.