Saturday, August 1, 2009

Big House Part 2

Today's topic is a proposal to radically increase the size of the House.

Beaudrot predicts that elections would be contested by direct mail. Perhaps that's correct, but I hardly think it's an advantage -- direct mail campaigns tend to be sleazier than TV ad campaigns. But, regardless, I don't think that's the most important question about elections. The question instead is what kinds of candidates would be helped.

The biggest effect of far more House elections would be to remove the media from House elections even more than we've already done. I'd think this would help candidates with name recognition, which are (1) incumbents and (2) candidates with lots of money to spend. Moreover, with >1000 elections, party money would presumably be less important (since parties work nationwide, and thus would spread the same amount of money much wider), leaving either candidate money or interest group money more important. I could easily imagine an interest group deciding to concentrate its efforts on a handful of these minidistricts, basically buying a few dedicated Members.

Would multimember districts change things? Depends on the specific rules and regulations, but I don't really think so. I'm no expert on local elections, but my guess would be that most voters, and most reporters, deal with the complexity of multimember elections by ignoring them. Again, that leaves money as a major factor, which means (in a world where there's less party money to go around) interest groups and candidates holding the advantage.

Now, that's in contestable districts. Given that we tend to live among those with similar views, I suspect that smaller districts would be even less contested in general elections. So perhaps we would wind up with a result sort of like we have now, with only a hundred or so potentially contested districts, but instead of ~300 safe seats we would have over 1000 safe seats. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad idea.

As I said at the beginning of this, I really am intrigued by the idea of a radically larger House, but on the elections side I don't see much of an upside.

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