Friday, 16 January 2004

Solomon Unpunished

Robert Prather thinks the best solution to the District of Columbia’s electoral quandry is something I’d call “electoral retrocession”: the district’s residents would be considered residents of Maryland for the purposes of electing senators and representatives.

I can see several potential problems with this arrangement:

  1. The residents of the District of Columbia would have no say in the redistricting process of Maryland.
  2. Although it’s likely Maryland would treat D.C. as a unified entity in creating a single-member district, there are nefarious reasons not to do so—for example, by attaching majority-white but still overwhelmingly Democratic Ward 3 to the Montgomery County suburbs to further dilute Republican voting strength in the Maryland suburbs.
  3. The amendment, as proposed, requires Maryland’s assent to become active. No other constitutional amendment has ever required the assent of a particular state to become effective. (The only reasonable explanation for this provision: Maryland might legitimately argue that its equal suffrage in the Senate is being deprived by the amendment.)
  4. Any state on the threshold of losing representation has an interest in not supporting the amendment.
  5. The Democratic Party’s interests are better served by whining about the lack of representation of D.C. than adding a single guaranteed-to-be-a-Democrat member of the House of Representatives—especially if the net effect is to reduce the number of guaranteed electoral votes for the Democratic presidential nominee by three.

The first two problems could be solved by making D.C. residents eligible to vote in senatorial contests in Maryland, and adjusting the amendment to allocate a single representative to D.C. exclusively (while having no effect on Maryland’s representation in the House). The House could expand its membership by one (from 435 to 436) by statute to solve the “threshold” issue. The last problem could be solved by giving the Democrats the “carrot” of retaining D.C.’s 3 electoral votes—which, combined with an extra House member, are probably more valuable to the Democrats than two senators they’re most unlikely to get any other way.

Also on the D.C. topic: the D.C. Board of Elections has released ward and precinct-level results for the non-binding D.C. primary. I’d imagine some political scientist who knows something about ecological inference might just be able to use the precinct-level data to predict Al Sharpton’s likely share of the African-American vote in other states, if he were bored enough.

This is today’s entry in the Beltway Traffic Jam.