Reorienting Home Rule: Part 1?The Urban Disadvantage in National and State Lawmaking

Author:Paul A. Diller
Position:Professor of Law, Willamette University College of Law.
Pages:287-358
 
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Reorienting Home Rule: Part 1–The Urban
Disadvantage in National and State Lawmaking
Paul A. Diller*†
“Legislators represent people, not trees or acres.”
Chief Justice Earl Warren, Reynolds v. Sims (1964)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction .................................................................................. 288
I. Empirical Premise: A Spatially Divided Electorate ..................... 292
II. Normative Premises: One-Person, One-Vote and
Partisan Fairness ........................................................................... 298
A. One-Person, One-Vote ........................................................... 299
B. Partisan Fairness .................................................................... 304
III. The Senate and the National Urban Disadvantage ....................... 308
A. Recent Examples of the Senate’s
Malapportionment Effect ....................................................... 312
B. The Relationship Between One-Person, One-Vote
and Partisan Fairness .............................................................. 315
C. Counterarguments for Senate Malapportionment .................. 316
1. Minority Protection ......................................................... 317
2. Past Performance ............................................................. 317
3. Campaign Money as Ameliorative .................................. 319
4. Mobility and Voluntary Waiver ...................................... 321
Copyright 2016, by PAUL A. DILLER.
* Professor of Law, Willamette University College of Law. For helpful
feedback I thank Keith Cunningham-Parmeter, Nestor Davidson, Ryan Emenaker,
Tim Johnson, Gene Mazo, Kathleen Morris, David Schleicher, Nick Stephanopoulos,
and the participants in workshops at Chapman, Willamette, and the 2015 Law &
Society Association meeting in Seattle. My gratitude extends also to Mary Rumsey
and Jacqueline Leung for excellent and indispensable research assistance.
Note on citations: All election results come from the secretaries’ of states
(or equivalent) offices, sometimes obtained through a gathering website like
Ballotpedia. Population figures come from the U.S. Census and, unless stated
otherwise, are either 2013 or 2014 estimates, depending on the year in question.
288 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 77
IV. The Urban Disadvantage in the U.S. House:
Partisan Bias ................................................................................. 322
A. Partisan Gerrymandering ....................................................... 326
B. Prohibition on Districts Crossing State Lines ......................... 327
C. Voter Geographical Distribution, or “Unintentional
Gerrymandering” ................................................................... 331
D. Note on the President and the Electoral College ................... 334
V. The Urban Disadvantage in the States ......................................... 336
A. Partisan Bias in State Legislatures is Similar
to the U.S. House ................................................................... 336
B. Governors, Other Officials Elected Statewide, and
Direct Democracy ................................................................... 342
VI. Other Structural Urban Disadvantages ........................................... 345
Conclusion .................................................................................... 349
Appendix ...................................................................................... 351
INTRODUCTION
The federal government is dysfunctional, largely because of Congress’s
inability to pass laws that solve the problems facing the country. Numerous
opinion polls rate Congress at the lowest levels in recent history.1 A
president re-elected by a solid majority in 2012 found himself immediately
hobbled by Congress’s obstructionism. American voters, frustrated by
federal inaction, seemingly rewarded the same obstructionists in the 2014
midterm elections. The federal government seems stuck in a cycle of
despair. Although less dysfunctional than the federal government, in recent
years states have swung wildly in ideological directions that sometimes
diverge sharply from the median views of the state’s voters. Some states
innovate and solve problems of concern to voters, to be sure, but there is
also evidence that state governments do not accurately reflect the views of
many states’ voters on a consistent basis.
By contrast, numerous commentators praise cities, counties, and urban
metropolises for taking the lead in tackling problems that the federal
1. E.g., Rebecca Riffkin, 2014 U.S. Approval of Congress Remains Near All-
Time Low, GALLUP (Dec. 15, 2014), http://www.gallup.com/poll/180113/2014-
approval-congress-remains-near-time-low.aspx [https://perma.cc/9S2R-7SYT].
2016] REORIENTING HOME RULE: PART 1 289
government and many states have fumbled: climate change, income
inequality, paid sick leave, immigration reform, gay rights, public health,
gun control, and others.2 Those lauding local governments have offered
many reasons for their leadership in these areas. Some commentators have
cited the smaller scale of local government and its knack for “practical”
problem-solving.3 Others have highlighted the relative lack of veto points
in the legislative processes of local government, which enables cities to
overcome the inertia prevalent at the federal level.4 The concentrated, left-
leaning political preferences of urban voters, which can facilitate policy
consensus on issues that might cause gridlock at other levels of
government, undoubtedly play an important role.5
Big cities as progressive islands in the statewide and national sea is
thus a common theme in the local government literature. Inevitably, cities’
views on issues—as translated into policy—collide with the authority of
state and federal actors representing a different electorate. How to resolve
these disputes normatively and doctrinally receives much attention from
local government scholars.6 Most scholars accept the status quo that
2. See generally BENJAMIN R. BARBER, IF MAYORS RULED THE WORLD:
DYSFUNCTIONAL NATIONS AND RISING CITIES (2013); BRUCE KATZ & JENNIFER
BRADLEY, THE METROPOLITAN REVOLUTION: HOW CITIES AND METROS ARE FIXING
OUR BROKEN POLITICS AND FRAGILE ECONOMY (2013); see also Thomas L.
Friedman, I Want to Be a Mayor, N.Y. TIMES (July 27, 2013), http://www.nytimes
.com/2013/07/28/opinion/sunday/friedman-i-want-to-be-a-mayor.html [https://perma
.cc/3LTT-4PA8].
3. E.g., BARBER, supra note 2, at 11 (discussing the “pragmatic, problem-
solving character” of cities).
4. See, e.g., Paul A. Diller, Why Do Cities Innovate in Public Health?
Implications of Scale and Structure, 91 WASH. U. L. REV. 1219, 1265–69 (2014)
(arguing that cities’ streamlined legislative structures makes them better able to
advance regulation of certain industries); CLAYTON P. GILLETTE, LOCAL
REDISTRIBUTION AND LOCAL DEMOCRACY: INTEREST GROUPS AND THE COURTS 181
(2011) (observing that cities, with unicameral legislatures, are less likely to “privilege
the status quo” than governments with bicameral legislatures).
5. Diller, supra note 4, at 1262–65 (discussing big cities’ left-leaning political
preferences); see also Jonathan A. Rodden, The Long Shadow of the Industrial
Revolution: Political Geography and the Representation of the Left 60 (Mar. 25,
2011) (unpublished manuscript) (on file with the Louisiana Law Review),
http://web.stanford.edu/~jrodden/wp/shadow.pdf [https://perma.cc/9FXY-P6RT]
(“[A] relatively tight correlation between population density and left voting is quite
ubiquitous in industrialized societies.”).
6. See, e.g., Kenneth Stahl, Preemption Federalism, and Local Democracy,
FORDHAM URB. L.J. (forthcoming 2016), http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm
?abstract_id=2837905 [https://perma.cc/M7CS-WSDD]; Paul Diller, Intrastate
Preemption, 87 B.U. L. REV. 1113 (2007).

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