Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Electoral Reform," Pandora's Box

The road to the hell of gerrymandering is paved with the best of intentions aka "electoral reform." Just because it works in the humongously large, stable super-power, the United States, doesn't mean that it would be good for tiny and realistically threatened Israel.

To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections.

A number of years ago, the Jerusalem Municipality decided that the then new Ramot neighborhoods should be governed by district councils. Contrary to the original plan and expectations of the municipality, more religious and chareidi had bought homes and apartments in the new neighborhood than secular Jews. They didn't want the minority of secular residents to be dominated by the more religiously observant, which would be the result if they allowed true democracy.
They studied the patterns of home purchase and saw that the secular dominated the low density, single-family homes, and the more religiously observant were in the higher story, multi-family apartment buildings. So, instead of dividing districts by population, so that there were approximately equal numbers of voters, families or residents in each district, they divided Ramot by buildings. Yes, a private home for one family was considered equal to an apartment house for forty families or more. Yes, that's gerrymandering Israeli style.
Every time I hear people say that Israel must have "electoral reform" and change to districts, I think of this and have nightmares.
There are many things that should be changed in the Israeli Government. Chief among them are the courts and the way the judges are appointed. There should be checks and balances. Today, the Supreme Court can overrule any law which doesn't suit the political and "moral" agenda of the justices.
And there's something that can't be legislated, the political sophistication of the voters. During the last elections, three years ago, the young Tel Aviv trendies voted for the Pensioners Party as a lark, and they became a political power in the coalition negotiations. They were a total farce and failure as Members of Knesset.
As a G-d fearing person, I know that democracy isn't a true G-d. It's just a tool we humans can use... for good or for bad. G-d willing, the people we vote into office next week will use their positions wisely. For this I pray, and I'll be voting for Ichud Le'umi.


rickismom said...

Yes, I can definately have nightmares thinking what the big parties would do with "electoral reform"......

Anonymous said...

The current party system has shown to be a nightmare and an unstable one at that since the state's inception.

The US has had its cases of gerrymandering when congressional district lines are unfairly redrawn to suit someone's agenda.

However, overall the potential for a more fair and balanced republic based democracy would indeed be possible by districting in Israel - perhaps even at 2 levels, similar to the US.

Just as you advocate checks and balances for judicial appointments, the same is needed for drafting electoral reform.

Batya said...

rickismom, I'm sure that the distortions will be record-braking.

shy, please don't be naive about it.

Actually, Bibi has a compromise plan, which he explained at the jblogger conference.

Anonymous said...

Batya, please don't be naive about the rut the State has been in since day 1.

Batya said...

Shy, it's because I know the "quality" of people running this country that I don't want to give them the opportunity to gerrymander.