Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Election fraud, right here in the USA!

And sensationalism, right here on Poliglut!

On the way to pick up my girlfriend from the airport the other day, I switched on my local NPR station and was aghast to hear that they were playing My Word!, a BBC game show for logophiles. The BBC categorizes the show as comedy; I'd say it's closer to insomnia medicine, but I tuned in anyway.

The first round of My Word! quizzed contestants on obscure words, and one of the first words was "gerrymandering". To most Americans, this word is probably about as obscure as "district," but the host wasn't even sure if the first two syllables were pronounced "Jerry" or "Gary." More striking was that as the contestant hemmed and hawed, he said that he believed it was a form of election fraud in the US.

This caught me off guard; I see gerrymandering as a semi-mild abuse of power, but election fraud? Are we really going to put redistricting trickery in the same category as ballot stuffing?

Well, why not? Gerrymandering is certainly an abuse, it's one that only the party in power can execute, and it systematically disenfranchises certain voters in order to keep that party in power even if it doesn't accurately reflect the will of the people. It's more subtle than ballot stuffing or thuggery, but it still smells like fraud to me. That we in the US are used to it doesn't make it less fraudulent, unless one has an axiomatic faith in American democracy.

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