Districts & Gerrymandering

Much of the content on the PR Voting site, and this page specifically, challenges the default orthodoxy that communities of color must rely on race-conscious districting ("affirmative gerrymandering") as a means to effective representation, vs a proportional alternative, but recognizes that it is absolutely a proper, just and defensive mechanism under a winner-take-all system that has long excluded them, largely through race-based districting designed to advantage white voters. The same may be said for those who challenge extrene partisan gerrymandering by promoting Independent Redistricting Commissions; that is reasonable and much appreciated defensive work combatting the problems at hand, but we also need to broaden our collective vision in order to move behind simply parrying these persistent threats. It's been 209 years since Elkanah Tisdale sketched his fearsome salamander-with-dragon-wings - it's long past time to accept that we're just never going to have fair districts, if we maintain single-member districts. If we must base our politics in 19th century pithy political observations, instead of salamander-dragons, we could point to US Senator Charles Buckalew's 12 theses published in his 1872 collection, Proportional Representation: #12, batting cleanup, is this: "Lastly [PR] is a certain remedy for the evil of gerrymandering in the formation of congressional districts, and may be made to remedy, partially or completely, the same evil, in apportionments for members of State legislatures." Our current districting woes are not new. Geography should not define our representation destinies now, as they shouldn't have then.

Political parties, race, and the limits of redistricting reform.pdf
Voter self-districting under STV.pdf
Don't fix the maps - use more colors, and don’t use winner-take-all maps if you don’t want winner-take-all elections.pdf
William Barr and the Republican embrace of affirmative gerrymandering, 1991-92.pdf
Massachusetts _hybrid_ cities have not fared well in diversifying representation.pdf
The “All Politics Is Local” Politician Once Won a Citywide PR Election.pdf


From Jack Santucci's blog, voteguy.com. Jack is a scholar of proportional representation and especially the 20th century PR Cities experience. Worcester is one of the three cities he has focused on, along with Cincinnati and New York. These excerpts followed the posting of Worcester PR ballot images several years ago, which noted the appearance of residential addresses for the listed candidates:

Howie Fain


May 16, 2017 at 22:05

Is it surprising that street address and candidate for reelection appear on the ballot? In Massachusetts, both appear on all state and local ballots, except for US president.

And perhaps it’s the street addresses that influenced the 1959 City Council election in Worcester. Two candidates shown on the ballot, incumbent Mike Favulli and Peter Tomaiolo, competed for the “East Side Italian-American seat” on the council; one or the other won that seat in 5 out of the 6 PR council elections.

Favulli had won in 1957, but sometime over the next two years had moved to the West Side (Newton Avenue North!!). Tomaiolo, still an East-sider, was able to take the seat.

Historical note: East side voters went strong for repeal in 1960, and promptly lost representation in the 9x at-large system that replaced it.



May 16, 2017 at 23:22

Howie, thanks for this great context! Where are you getting the info? Local lore?

Howie Fain


May 17, 2017 at 15:39

Jack, not lore; rather an early 1990s document of less-than-stellar academic rigor, entitled “District and Ethnic Loyalties under Proportional Representation in Worcester, 1949-1959.” A blend of amateur an[al]ysis of the PR results, last-name inferences, some knowledge of the city, the ward map from Binstock, and a conversation or two with descendants of participants. Check your email, Sept 10 2015. I actually think the amateur analysis is not only somewhat credible and relevant, it could lay the foundation for a more rigorous work, with some important lessons about distributing, identity voting blocs, etc. Let me know…

[That report is District and Ethnic Loyalties under Proportional Representation in Worcester, 1949-1959, also found under PR Cities on PR Voting.]