Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Does this make sense?

Time to reform Allegheny County voting districts!!

For the political junkies lurking this evening, here is something to think about.  Isn't it about time for Allegheny County to reform the number of voting districts it has?  We gnash over the 128 (+ 2 halves) municipalities we have, but we have over 1,200 voting districts.  Sure, some make sense, but given a century of population changes it is time to rethink how many voting districts we maintain.  So many, some pathologically small, voting districts incur all sorts of costs without much benefit.  You need to buy and maintain machines.  The county needs to find a small army of poll workers to support all those centers, something that is a problem in many parts of the region.  I personally wonder if the sheer number of districts have issues with oversight, training and transparency.  Then there is the sheer inefficiency of it all. How many polling locations that are actually co-located with other polling districts?  Does that make sense?  I once voted in a location that had machines for 4 distinct districts co-located for one election cycle.  In fact, I just walked past two polling locations closer to my house as I went to my polling location.   So real costs, and real management nightmares for the county maintaining so many individual voting districts.  It isn't clear to me what the benefits are at all.  This isn't like municipal fragmentation where folks like or dislike their local government structure...   are people emotionally attached to voting in "Ward 8 - District 5"??  Probably not, but nobody works up much of a sweat to change anything either.  Given that we do these elections all the time, the costs have to add up. 

Below is what the county's voting district structure looks like currently.   Not quite a Rorschach test, more like a Rube Goldberg machine as a map. 

10 Comments:

Blogger DaveP said...

Agreed - I'm Ward 11/District 11, and my voting location has desks for 4 Districts. Perhaps this made sense when population density was higher in Pittsburgh...but it doesn't make any sense now.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010 7:39:00 PM  
Blogger Burgher Jon said...

But Chris, that would eliminate JOBS!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010 9:01:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

By posting am I admitting to being a political junkie?

Eliminating districts and or polling stations means less power and less control...and that's what its all about.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

not quite sure fewer districts means less power and control.. might be the other way around?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not seeing the problem with multiple districts voting in the same location. JCC in Squirrel Hill has four districts voting there. There are often lines at all four tables, and yesterday all four districts hovered around 50 percent turnout. If you're talking about combining the four districts into one or two, seems like that would just create longer lines.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 9:41:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

Each precinct has its own party captain, someone to count on to get out the vote, who knows who to call and who not to call, who knows which strings and levers to pull and what buttons to push.

They are gerrymandered for maximum benefit. They allow for rewarding friends with jobs and positions of power, albeit small power for neighborhood wannabes. They are the training grounds for future powerbrokers. These precincts are the essence of machine politics.

If the number were to be cut in half, or better to one fourth, the precincts get too large to control the turnout. And the machine loses power.

Of course, it can also be said that making precincts larger causes the people to lose touch with the party leaders. That small precincts lead to better communication with the leadership. Small precincts with local captains gives the party a better feel for the needs of the people.

Pros and cons on either side.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 9:49:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

for wiz... really this can't be gerrymandering. or if it is , it is gerrymandering from the 19th century. Most of these districts have not moved an inch in 80 years at this point.

For anonymous.. I'm not sure I would infer from the most dense part of the county. I'll do a map at some point pointing out all the voting districts that had under 100 votes cast all day long. How long were polls open? 10-11 hours. There are voting districts that had less than 10 votes cast all day long. I keep looking for the time when there is an instance of nobody showing up to vote at a particular polling place. kind of impossible if you have a local election judge, but I think they already have folks filling in at sites who are not residents of their wards.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 9:59:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Most of these districts have not moved an inch in 80 years at this point.

Same with the election judges.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

I was wrong on that one....Lawrence Co consolidated several precincts a few years back due to population loss and lack of people to man them all on election day. Plus, they saved money by having to purchase less of the new electronic voting machines. Thought other counties did also. But precinct captains are critical for both parties in getting out the vote.

Would be good to see other counties doing so. There have been dramatic changes in populations in the last few decades and the precincts should better portray the current population.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 2:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One issue that consolidation would fix is exhaustion of the folks who have to work the 14-hour election day. I'm a clerk in my district, & we're all loopy by closing time. (For the Judge of Elections, the day starts even earlier and ends later, & she's pushing 80. She's competent and well-liked, but how much longer can she go on, & who wants to replace her?) If 2 districts would combine staffs and everyone work 7 hours in 2 shifts, it might also be easier to recruit workers. It's so crazy, it just might work....

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 4:22:00 PM  

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