Start the conversation
Republicans and Democrats have engineered a system that almost certainly wasted your vote for Congress in the November election.
Take Ohio's 15th District.
In this district's 2008 election for the House of Representatives, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy defeated Republican Steve Stivers by a margin of just 0.76%.
Then the 15th District was reconfigured in 2011.
The following year, Stivers defeated Democratic challenger Pat Lang by a margin of 23.12%.
Stivers won re-election in 2016 by a whopping margin of 32.4%.
Ohio's once-competitive 15th District is now a safe Republican seat, wasting the votes of more than 300,000 people.
In 2011, most of the area's Democrats were bunched into the neighboring 3rd District, which is equally uncompetitive. Democrat Joyce Beatty won by a margin of 36.6%, wasting another 300,000-plus votes.
Sadly, this isn't a rare event. It's an example of the disturbing trend in U.S. voting that has eliminated competition in 94% of the country's congressional districts.
And it's why political gridlock in Washington is going to get even worse…
How Voters Lost Congress to the "Safe Seats" Movement
Only about 25 of the 435 congressional districts are competitive now – less than 6%.
In other words, most congressional districts have enough of a majority for one party that it's a "safe" win in almost every election.
It wasn't always this way.
As recently as 1992, more than 100 congressional districts were competitive, nearly 24%.
But today it's not unusual for a state to have no competitive districts.
Ohio, a critical swing state in presidential elections, had not one close congressional race in 2016. Out of Ohio's 16 districts, the closest margin of victory was 19 percentage points. And almost all – 14 – were landslides of 30 percentage points or more.
Of the nine races in Tennessee, the closest margin was 25%. Six of those races were decided by margins of more than 40 percentage points. In Missouri's eight races, the closest margin was 19.9%. Six of those had winning margins of at least 39 percentage points.
When election victories are that lopsided, millions of votes are wasted.
But this is not the only problem with so many uncompetitive districts…
This Is Why Congress Is Ruined
The large number of safe seats also has made it easier for extremists in both parties to get elected. More moderate candidates often get knocked out in the primaries. When a seat isn't competitive, it's much easier for a hardline conservative or liberal to then win it in the general election.
More extremists in Washington is why the partisan divide has grown into a chasm, and why the political fights have grown increasingly bitter.
It's also why America is stuck with a do-nothing Congress.
The just-ended 114th Congress managed to pass 328 laws, a bit higher than the 296 enacted by the 113th Congress. But as recently as the 106th Congress (January 1999-December 2000), 604 laws were passed.
While the Republicans have gained the most benefit from safe seats, they've also had to cope with an unintended consequence – the rise of the Freedom Caucus.
The Freedom Caucus consists of about 30 of the most conservative members of the GOP. It tangles with the Republican establishment almost as much as the Democrats do. And it has teeth.
The Freedom Caucus almost single-handedly forced the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in October 2015.
The worst part is, these safe districts haven't arisen by accident. They've been created deliberately by both the Republicans and Democrats to make winning elections easier.
Plus, campaign money that would have gone to uncompetitive districts can be re-channeled to swing districts.
This is how they did it…
This Old Tactic Is How Your Vote Gets Wasted
About the Author
David Zeiler, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including 18 spent at The Baltimore Sun. He has worked as a writer, editor, and page designer at different times in his career. He's interviewed a number of well-known personalities - ranging from punk rock icon Joey Ramone to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Over the course of his journalistic career, Dave has covered many diverse subjects. Since arriving at Money Morning in 2011, he has focused primarily on technology. He's an expert on both Apple and cryptocurrencies. He started writing about Apple for The Sun in the mid-1990s, and had an Apple blog on The Sun's web site from 2007-2009. Dave's been writing about Bitcoin since 2011 - long before most people had even heard of it. He even mined it for a short time.
Dave has a BA in English and Mass Communications from Loyola University Maryland.