Gerrymandering

Bibi's campaigning hard to return to the position of prime minister. I think he has matured as a leader since his last turn, but this electoral districts business has my antennas buzzing.

Batya Medad,

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I'd like to thank my e-buddy, Boris, from cold Canada, for bringing the Jerusalem Post article about Binyamin Netanyahu's proposal to change our electoral system to my attention.

Bibi's campaigning hard to return to the position of prime minister. I think he has matured as a leader since his last turn, but this electoral districts business has my antennas buzzing.

I know that many immigrants feel disoriented in Israel's system of proportional representation, which encourages a multitude of political parties centered on ideology and personality. Forming coalitions to rule is more difficult than table planning at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah where most of the relatives are feuding. It's not quite as bad as it once was, since the minimum percentage to be represented has gone up quite a bit. That causes other problems, like that of wasted votes, since the votes to the parties that didn't get enough aren't counted or added to any other party. Today, it is much harder to start a new political party, since the chances of passing the "threshold" are much lower. It used to be that you just needed enough for one seat out of the Knesset's one hundred and twenty.

Israeli society isn't the two-party type. England has three strong parties, when you add up the popular vote, but in terms of parliamentary seats, the third party is hardly represented. Does that truly show the will of the people?

But my main reason for opposing elections based on districts is that there is an "art" to drawing the electoral districts. One can control the results by concentrating supporters of specific parties in some districts and marginalizing them in others. It's called gerrymandering. There's another aspect to gerrymandering and it involves population density. It's very common for rural districts to have far fewer voters than urban districts, even though the rural ones are much, much larger in terms of actual size. This means that the country voter's voice is much stronger than his city counterpart.

A few years ago, district representation was tried in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem in a "neighborhood council". I don't know what its status is now, but at that time, they came up with a perfect example of gerrymandering. The municipality decided that representation was by buildings. The only "problem" was that the private homes were mostly inhabited by the secular and the multi-family structures had more of the religious population. The aim was to reduce the power of the religious. Fair? Democratic? No way.

So, sorry, Bibi, your latest ploy is just convincing me more and more that we're not on the same track.

This is what I wrote to the Jerusalem Post in response to the article:
Mr. Netanyahu went to US public schools when I did. I learned all about gerrymandering, the art of drawing electoral districts to distort the "will of the people." That means, to control results. I'd hate to think how Israeli politicians will bring to even greater heights, or depths, this perverse skill that negates the only advantage of democracy.





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