Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Governance through Technology

By John O. McGinnis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
De-biasing Democracy

BIAS REMAINS A SUBSTANTIAL IMPEDIMENT to improving policy on the basis of new information. Thus, reforms that constrain bias are an important element of accelerating democracy. Some of these reforms would build on the existing mechanisms of democracy like majority rule for electing candidates and responsive representation that already constrain bias. Other reforms would deploy new information technology to further constrain bias.


Reinforcing Majority Rule and Representation

Gerrymandering Reform

Majority rule promotes updating on information in elections, because less partisan and more open-minded voters cast the decisive ballots to choose candidates for office. But partisan gerrymandering can reduce the influence of swing voters. Gerrymandering can also entrench political representatives in office, making it less necessary for them to explain their positions to voters with diverse views, a process that can reduce bias among legislators. Empirical evidence supports the need for such reform. Representatives in districts where swing voters are more likely to be decisive vote in a more independent and less partisan manner.1

Under the laws of most states, state legislatures draw up districts both for themselves and for members of the House of Representatives. State legislatures engage in two kinds of partisan gerrymandering that inhibit the influence of swing and independent voters. In one kind a partisan majority in the legislature attempts to elect as many members of its party as it can. It thus packs voters of the other party into a few districts, minimizing the opposing party’s representation. In other districts the majority party places just enough of its partisans to gain victory, thus maximizing the number of seats with the minimum of support.

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