Painful Truth: U.S. could take a lesson from Canada’s gerrymandered past

Democracy is better when politicians don’t draw the lines on the maps.

One of the most significant results of this week’s U.S. midterm elections wasn’t much reported up here north of the 49th, but it deserves more attention.

Michigan voters approved a measure to end gerrymandering in their state, by a whopping 60-plus per cent of voters.

Not every Canadian reader will remember how gerrymandering works, since between the 1970s and 1980s, it was largely wiped out.

When electoral districts are drawn up, if elected officials have a chance to move the lines around, they have a tendency to favour their own party.

In some U.S. states, this has gone to ludicrous extremes. Though Democrats have been guilty of it, most of the worst modern gerrymanders were created by Republican administrations at the state level. They will pack as many solidly Democratic voters as possible into one district, often leaving it a bizarre, unnatural shape. That district will return a democrat with 70 to 90 per cent of the vote.

The surrounding districts, having removed many of their most democratic neighbourhoods, will return two, three, four Republicans by comfortable margins of around 60 per cent.

Before we got rid of gerrymandering, we saw similar shenanigans here in B.C. The most infamous, and last, was Gracie’s Finger.

Veteran Social Credit cabinet minister Grace McCarthy’s Vancouver riding saw slowly sliding support for her party.

So during an open-door session of the electoral boundaries commission in 1978, someone (it’s never been clear who) suggested a change – a protuberance that jutted out of her riding into solidly-Socred Point Grey.

By the time the next boundary commission was formed in 1987, things had changed. A non-partisan commission held all its meetings behind closed doors, without input from lobbyists, MLAs, or political hangers-on.

Locking in these laws is one of the best ways to preserve meaningful choice at the polls. Unfortunately, short of a referendum, voters often have to beat a gerrymandered government to make the change.

Just Posted

Annual Langley Walk makes its way to Aldergrove

This weekend, Langley’s walkers and runners will get further acquainted with Aldergrove.

Therapeutic riding ‘frees’ Langley MS sufferer

Aldergrove non-profit equestrian association in desperate need of volunteers

South Langley’s next generation of tractor pullers

A cohort here to prove a lot more fun can be had with garden tractors, than just mowing lawns.

PHOTOS: Aldergrove Easter party a treat for children in the community

Saturday morning was jam-packed with Easter activities for young local residents

Aldergrove Peewee players embark on ‘experience of a lifetime’

Team will fly to Japan for international Friendship Hockey tournament

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from B.C. pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Can you put your phone down for Mother’s Day?

#DiningMode campaign encourages people to leave the phone alone while eating

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

SPCA investigating after newborn kittens found in Vancouver dumpster

The kittens were found suffering from hypothermia and dehydration

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

VIDEO: Surrey stabbing leaves man with ‘potentially life altering injuries’

Police believe an altercation between two people led to the incident, in the 13700-block of 97A Ave.

VIDEO: Surrey RCMP investigating after ‘sudden death’ of man found with critical injuries

Police say a man is dead after being found laying on the ground in the 13300-block of 114th Avenue

Most Read