In Georgia, voting for Congress is reduced to a farce

One look at the results of Georgia’s 14 congressional races tells you just how dangerously fraudulent the notion of “self-government” has become.

In half of the districts, voters in last week’s general election had literally no choice. Because the districts were so heavily gerrymandered in favor of one party or the other, only one name was on the ballot in those seven districts, four of which are held by Republicans and three by Democrats. Voting in those races was like “voting” in the former Soviet Union, where candidates were elected unanimously.

U.S. Rep. John Barrow

U.S. Rep. John Barrow

Voting in six of the seven districts that did at least feature two names on the ballot was just as meaningless. The average margin of victory in those six “contested” races was 33 percentage points, compared to a margin in the top statewide races of roughly eight points.  In those races, there was no real debate; no real sense that voters had any power. And there is no fear among incumbents in those districts that they might be held accountable for their votes and actions.

The only election that was worthy of the term occurred in the 12th District, where incumbent Democrat John Barrow lost by 9.5 percentage points to newcomer Rick Allen. And with Barrow’s departure, it’s doubtful that the heavily Republican 12th will ever be competitive again in its current form.

That’s what happens when voters don’t pick their politicians, and instead politicians pick their voters. They insulate themselves from competition, ensuring that the only real challenge to their incumbency comes in their party’s primary. The process forces conservative politicians to get more conservative, and liberal politicians to get more liberal. Barrow, a conservative Democrat, bucked that dynamic for years until it finally got the best of him.

It’s important to note that there are no bad guys in this story, or at least nobody who is worse than anyone else. Georgia Democrats gerrymandered the state when they had the power to do so, just as Republicans are doing now, and members of both parties make maximum use of highly accurate computerized mapping programs wherever state law allows them to do so.

One hundred years ago this year, and for the first time in American history, voters throughout the country were able to vote directly for their state’s U.S. senators. Prior to adoption of the 17th Amendment in 1913, senators in many states were chosen by state legislators, not voters, until the people insisted that they be allowed to elect their leaders directly rather than through proxies.

Today, it’s the House of Representatives whose membership is largely decided by state legislators, with voters serving as little more than rubber stamps for decisions made by those whose primary interest is in protecting the status quo against any who would dare to challenge it. And while we complain about a political system crippled by growing divisiveness, we meekly tolerate an election structure that rewards and even mandates that divisiveness.

Reader Comments 0

335 comments
lvg
lvg

Jay- US Supreme Court says there are no  longer  voting rights violatiions in the South . Who are you to disagree?

Myview72
Myview72

Your description of gerrymandering as legislators choosing their voters captures the lack of representation in legislative bodies.   If you are in the minority in a gerrymandered district,  why vote or expect any responsiveness from your legislator?  Government by the people does not exist.


Unfortunately, the people cannot change the process in Georgia as the Constitution cannot be changed without the approval of the General Assembly.  It is a rigged system that favors incumbents of both parties.  

There are electoral reforms that would make our system more representative and encourage moderation.  I particularly like the instant runoff voting mechanism using multi-member districts with ranked voting.   It undermines gerrymandering, encourages moderation, and results in officials more reflective of the various viewpoints of the people.  We need to restore republican government.  Unfortunately, the country that took selection of senators away from legislators in order to promote government by the people does not apparently exist anymore.

Joel Edge
Joel Edge

John Barrow survived so long by way of the southern Democrat tactic of hunker-down-and-hope-the-sh**-misses. Well, there was too much fertilizer coming off the Democrat fan this year and it nailed him. Like a good many blue-dogs he had the opportunity to speak up and serve the same purpose as the Tea Party does in the Republican Party, he didn't.

Kamchak
Kamchak

To think, I might have gone to Liberty University and learned absolutely nothing useful.

Penses
Penses

@Kamchak


I thought you...wait...that was Lethargy University. My bad.

straker
straker

To think, all you adolescent home schooled here, daydreaming about college, where you'll never be unless you spend more time studying and less time blogging.  

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@straker I can't speak for anyone else, but I've spent enough time in college for one lifetime.  I really don't need any more degrees; five is plenty.

Penses
Penses

@Tuna Meowt @straker


Yeah...the tightening up on school loans sure has out a damper on things.


Just teasing. ;-)

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Penses @Tuna Meowt @straker Dude, that's where the Army came in.  Paid off the first round of student loans, paid for another Bachelor's and paid for the first Master's.

EdUktr
EdUktr

With last week’s election 33 states will likely have Republican governors, versus only 16 with Democrat governors. And 29 state legislatures will be wholly dominated by Republicans versus just 11 where Democrats will rule.

But Jay's only interested when non-Democrats gerrymander.

Kamchak
Kamchak

To think, I might have gone to Cal Tech and become the world's preeminent theoretical physicist.

Penses
Penses

@Kamchak


I know, right? But I think you have sought out and found your true sea level. Be happy.

GaBlue
GaBlue

Dear Interface Designers:

A picture is worth a thousand words. A thousand pictures just give us a headache and make the headlines harder to scan.

Kamchak
Kamchak

To think, I might have gone to Johns Hopkins and become chief thoracic surgeon....

Penses
Penses

@Kamchak


Or gone to Harvard, became a community orgranizer and then president!!! You too, KC, can be president! The illiterati (which is a WHOLE lot of people) will love you (as the did Obama).

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

To think, I might have gone to Oxford University...


Its very FoxNewsian isn't it.


Could I have gone to Princeton ? Am I a Harvard graduate ?


I love how they put question marks at the end of half their headlines. So full of crap.

Penses
Penses

@HeadleyLamar


I sure am glad (for your sake) that you did not use a moniker with the word "heady" (as in "intellectually stimulating or demanding") in it. The irony would have been very great.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

To think I might have gone to Dartmouth graduate school:


One imagines if you had you would have better things to do than post here. 

Penses
Penses

@HeadleyLamar


LOL. What tipped you off - when I used words like "bootysex," "peeny" and "poopy?"  

Kamchak
Kamchak

To think, I might have gone to Oxford University....

Penses
Penses

@Kamchak


Thanks for illustrating here the point of my last post (on the "dumming down" of America). That's might "sporting" of you!

DS
DS

California figured out a solution to the gerrymander problem by creating a Citizens Commission to draw voting districts. This commission first met in 2011 and drew new districts for 2012 elections.

The districts were drawn based upon geography, not politics. As a result, the new districts are more "purple," rather than either blue or red.

This method of drawing voting districts came about through California's proposition voting mechanism, which puts proposals on voting ballots as referendums. This prevented politicians from blocking action.

It will be interesting to see whether any other states figure out a way to implement nonpartisan commissions to draw voting districts.

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

It is sad to see adults think that promoting and defending a person in DC that they somehow are assimilating with their heroes.  empty life

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Cupofjoe 

It is sad...

I am so so saddy saddy sad sad sad that you haz sadz.

Penses
Penses

@Kamchak @Cupofjoe


Thanks for illustrating here the point of my post (on the "dumming down" of America). That's might "sporting" of you!

gotalife
gotalife

You lost the lie that you are patriotic.  Case closed.

moonbat_betty
moonbat_betty

@gotalife

Just because you have an"O" sticker on your bumper doesn't mean you are patriotic.

gotalife
gotalife

The real axis of evil is our rw.

gotalife
gotalife

Running on stopping your President in a time of war is just how the rw show patriotism and resolve. I rest my case.

gotalife
gotalife

@moonbat_betty aq, isis and several other terrorist groups. Been living under a rock? The war on terror, the cold war and the war on drugs will bankrupt us so lets end the war on drugs.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

Actually, in an AJC print edition story this morning (funny how that story is NOT on-line) Obama said that all these problems in the election were HIS FAULT - his words, not mine. 

Thus, is the end, all of the libs who have been blaming Bush have definitely gotten it wrong for the past 6 years - it really was, and continues to be, all Obama's fault!

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

@gotalife 

And at least he fessed up that is is his fault - something you guys fail to realize.

gotalife
gotalife

If the crybaby rush can't take the heat, get out of politics wimp.

moonbat_betty
moonbat_betty

@gotalife

I don't know why libs think rush holds some kind of office...oh well.

Let em believe what they want to believe...

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The guy who calls women whors on his show would claim to be defamed


Only in America. 

moonbat_betty
moonbat_betty

@HeadleyLamar

I thought it was hilarious when Jessie Jackson said Obama should have his balls cut off on national tv.

gotalife
gotalife

As we ignore the election about nothing and move on like nothing happened is called sweet karma.