Funny How Things Work Out…

One of my recurring themes (and nightmares) has been moves by the left that I’ve perceived as aimed at manipulating and subverting elections. When President Obama moved the direct oversight of the Census from the Secretary of the Treasury (and at that point, his nominee was New Hampshire’s own Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican), I was concerned. The census determines how seats in the House are distributed.

That’s also at the core of my concerns about voter registration fraud and voter intimidation. With games like flooding registrars with bogus registrations, the potential for mischief was tremendous: not only did it create opportunities for fraudulent voting, not only did it open opportunities for “finding” bogus ballots after the election, it also laid the groundwork for charges of “voter suppression” and “lack of mandate” by artificially suppressing the percentage turnout.

I’m also troubled by George Soros’ “Secretary of State” project. He’s sinking tons of money into getting ideologically friendly folks into the Secretary of State positions in as many states as possible — and, among other things, Secretaries of State oversee and certify elections.

But every now and then, I’m reminded that our system tends to be self-correcting. Attempts to manipulate or game or out-and-out cheat the system tend to fail.

And that’s what happened this week.

Let’s look at reapportionment. Every ten years, the federal government holds a census. Once those numbers are in, the membership of the House is divvied up, as populations shift around. There are only 435 seats in the House, and they have to be divided as evenly as possible. The census will decide which states will gain and which will lose representation — and that potentially can be manipulated.

But that’s just the first part. The next phase takes place at the state level. Every single state has to redraw its Congressional districts after reapportionment, to try to balance each district population-wise. And that’s where Gerrymandering comes in, as the districts are often drawn on partisan grounds. Sometimes it’s to protect incumbents of one party. Sometimes it’s to set up districts that are a “majority minority” to help a minority member get elected. Sometimes it will be drawn to pit two (or even more) incumbent Representatives of the same party against each other. Sometimes it will be to concentrate a large number of the opposition into one district, and allow the other party to numerically dominate several others. (That one’s kind of tricky; if you make one district 85% Republican, you can then make several others 55-65% Democratic, just to pick some numbers out of the air.) And so on. It’s a grand game, played out on the state level.

My favorite example was the (rejected) Republican plan in Massachusetts in 1990. They came up with a new map that not only had each district balanced within ten or so voters, it put every single sitting Representative against another, leaving the other half of the seats open. It was a work of political genius.

Wow, I’m just past 500 words and I haven’t gotten to the meat of my thesis here. Time to pick it up.

As I said, redistricting is done at the state level, not the federal level. It is left to the several states to divide themselves into Congressional districts. More specifically, the state legislatures.

Where the Republicans just picked up 680 total state legislative seats. They hold both Houses in 26 states (including a huge supermajority here in New Hampshire — 19-5 in the Senate, 298-102 in the House), and hold at least one House in five more states. The Democrats hold just sixteen states outright. (Three states are still up in the air — Washington, Oregon, and New York. See map here.)

And all this happened without any apparent grand conspiracy. Further, I don’t think it could happen with a grand conspiracy — it’s just too hard to try to influence all those individual elections without word leaking out. (As I said above, New Hampshire alone has 424 seats in our legislature.)

All those grand plots (or perceived plots) to influence, rig, or circumvent elections, and in the end it fell apart because of one crucial factor — that redistricting is the province of the state legislatures, and that is one of the hardest things to control.

I am constantly amazed at just how wonderful our system of governance is. It has more safeguards and checks and balances and regulating mechanisms than many of us ever imagined — while still being a system best described as “institutionalized revolution” that tends to capture would-be radicals and insurgents and make them part of the system they say they want to destroy.

Man, I love my country. And my Constitution.

Barney Frank's Victory Speech
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