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Our Election Laws Are the True Root of Washington’s Gridlock

District gerrymandered for then-Rep. Tom Delay (TX-22)

Recently, many have tried to place the blame for the current gridlock in Washington on growing partisanship, primaries, activists or even the electorate; but ultimately, the real root of this current dysfunction is our election laws.

While divided government was the result of the last election, that is not what the electorate voted for. In the House races more people actually voted for Democrats than Republicans. It is only because of gerrymandering and the natural distortions caused by using single member districts that Republicans managed to retain control of the House despite their lack of support.

This would not have happened if we used one of the many proportional representation voting systems used by other democracies. Under those systems, since Democrats got the most votes for the House they would have won control.

If we had the unified government the electorate tried to vote for, we would not face this level of gridlock. The fact that primaries may be driving Republicans to the right or growing partisanship has made bipartisan deals difficult would be mostly immaterial. It is only because our election laws allow Republicans to retain partial power even after failing to get the most votes that these are a problem.

If you don’t want gridlock, what you need is a system where the party that gets the most votes actually wins, and the party that wins actually gets to govern.

Map from Wikipedia

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at