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Towards a nonpartisan Oregon legislature

Sen. Charlie Ringo is sponsoring an initiative for the November ballot to make state senator and state representative offices nonpartisan.
Seen on the Statesman-Journal's website:

BRAD CAIN
The Associated Press
January 14, 2004

SALEM After watching his fellow lawmakers engage in partisan warfare over the budget the past three years, Sen. Charlie Ringo thinks he knows how to improve the Legislature: dump the party labels.

The Beaverton Democrat is sponsoring an initiative for the November ballot to make state senator and state representative offices nonpartisan.

The current system of electing lawmakers as Republicans or Democrats has created an "intensely partisan" atmosphere where party loyalty and discipline take precedence over making good public policy, Ringo said.

"People are tired of the partisan fighting," he said. "They have a right to expect that their elected officials will go to Salem to make good decisions for their state and not engage in partisan battles."

Oregon would become only the second state, after Nebraska, to move to a nonpartisan legislature if the initiative wins approval, the senator said.

---

See the rest of the article at:  http://news.statesmanjournal.com/article.cfm?i=73721

See the intitiative status at :  http://sos-venus.sos.state.or.us:8080/elec_srch/web_irr_search.record_detail?p_reference=20040129..LSCYYY.

Read the full text at:  http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/irr/2004/129text.pdf

Reach Sen. Ringo at:  sen.charlieringo@state.or.us

great idea! 14.Jan.2004 16:21

surfer_sam

I'll be signing this if I run into a signature gatherer... the sooner we abandon the useless two-headed-corporate-party labels the better.,

strike the root: remove gerrymandered partisan districts, for watersheds 14.Jan.2004 18:47

.

You want to know why you are unable to vote them out? Because they have yet to ever stand for a competitve election in the first place.

You will be unable to get rid of partisanship, until you get rid of the way parties have taken upon themselves to jury-rigged their own election districts to be partisan, demographically. Thus they can appeal to...whatever they want to! They drew the map. None of the Republicans or Democrats want to actually challenge each other in elections. Why, that would mean they are forced to be representative! (heavy sarcasm). So, to keep the corporate state and environmental degradation, urban sprawl and other noxious effects out of the agenda, they agree on one policy: share the gerrymandering, and each party can curtail other demographic bases of parties and stop any debate on priorities--because they have set their own priorities in drawing their own districts.

The public/private conflict of interest in where parties draw their own districts in the United States virtually assures that incumbency, lack of party debate, and lack of competition in elections ensue. This keeps citizens as an independent force from ever getting around (or thorugh) this shared duopoly partisanship. Thus keeps any public pressure always divided and penned in, when it has nothing to do with communities or risk or concerns in a particular area, and politics becomes simply an exercise in partisan gerrymandering. Elections are facilitative of a particular incumbent instead of an election race! They rig their deck, then they get to deal as well.

A more direct way to remove partisanship is to cut at its heart: remove all political party's ability to draw their own districts. With districts ungerrymandered and opened up, voters can actually force parties to compete against each other, leading to a context where voters choose parties instead of incumbent parties endlessly changing their captive voter base to suit and harvest their changing ideas.

I can vouch for this: if you want to really spook your 'state representative,' ask them to introduce a bill to make district drawing non-partisan, by choosing watersheds instead of letting his or her single party determine his/her own voting district.

Make all districts politically non-partisan, and you stop parties designing their own votes; you stop them from designing a tailored demographic that is gerrymandered.

Choose watershed districts. This will cut out the heart of partisan power, and will cut out the heart of the two party lockout system (which is closer to a corporate state duopoly instead of competing parties anyway), and will facilitate any environmental risk feedback from the "turtles and teamsters" types of alliances: from leftist liberals on the environment and true conseratives of the environment, who know what conservatism actually means. You conserve, instead of destroy.

Expose the way incumbent parties endlessly change and capture a voter base to suit their changing ideas. Vote watershed.

Nice sites about gerrymandered districts and statistics in the United States on voting:

1.  http://www.fairvote.org

2. TOWARD A BIOREGIONAL STATE: People Have Right to Stop Ecological Tyranny & Make Democracy
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/12/277248.shtml

3. Oregon news on districts:
 http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/reports/remanual/or.htm
If people chose their representatives, the electoral map would look like this.
If people chose their representatives, the electoral map would look like this.
When one party can choose/change voters on whim, it's this (the 2002 update).
When one party can choose/change voters on whim, it's this (the 2002 update).

great idea, . 15.Jan.2004 02:20

surfer_sam

Period: Your comments are very interesting. Can you expound a little bit on how the districts are chosen? Does this mean that Portland, for example, is composed of "Republican" districts and "Democratic" districts exclusively? How is the territory divided up? Are there independent districts?

In a more practical vein, do you know if any Oregon state legislators/senators have responded favorably to the idea, or sponsored bills proposing nonpartisan districting? If so, it would be great if people who agreed with the idea let those representatives know, or even (gasp!) voted for them. Actions speak louder than words when it comes to politics, as we all know too well.

Not too long ago I received an email from OR Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who wrote in response to my statement of concern regarding e-voting machines and their lack of paper trails. He is a co-sponsor of the bill in the House of Rep's. to amend the "Help America Vote Act" to require paper receipts from all voting machines.

Rep. Blumenauer was the ONLY one to respond out of 4 Oregon state legislators who received my personal letters on the voting security subject. Could this be because the others frankly don't give a damn about honest elections, or the support of liberty-minded constituents? It's starting to look that way... I can tell you I won't be voting for any of the other incumbents come this fateful November.

Can you expound a little bit on how the US 'election' districts are chosen? 15.Jan.2004 10:27

response

1.

Toward a Bioregional State:

Bioregional Letter #4

Bioregionally Sensitive Congressional Districts,
that are Party-Competitive, as well as an Ecological Feedback to the State



Making Bioregionally Sensitive Congressional Districts,
that would be more competitive for all parties, instead of the 'pocketed'
clientelistic districts that the majoritarian parties have created for themselves alone

This letter discusses the importance of making the bailiwicks of United States elections geographic, because presently incumbency is over 90% in the Congress, voter turnouts are 50% or less--even some are unchallenged 'returns' to the federal congress (over 60 elections in 2000 to the congress were unchallenged, no one ran against these 'representatives.' They basically 'inherited' their positions. How can they be representative unless there are competitive elections?). How can this be?--with a majority of the public concerned about environmental and health issues?

Write it up to the gakekeeping of the elections process and formal framework of the majoritarian parties, where getting elected is less something to do with representing, it is all about assuring uncompetitive districts, and making themselves for a particular area the only route to the state. This fourth bioregional letter explains how we can remove these ungeographic bailiwicks and set up a meaningful bioregionalist politics: by (1) removing the gerrymandered, uncompetitive, districts that the majoritarian parties have set up on the ground which keep them from competiting for the vote, and keep the voters reliant upon them instead, and (2) setting up districts to be ecological feedback against environmental degradation of particular areas. Changing the geography of the districts in states and for federal elections would make all parties more competitive and thus more representative, by removing the 'pocketing' of our votes by these uncompetive parties. Allowing third/fourth parties to enter politics is a structural district change requirement.

. . .
Toward a Bioregional State
 http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~mrkdwhit/biostate/bioregion4.html
 http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~mrkdwhit/bioregionEC.htm

2.

Mapping our Future:

A Public Interest Guide to Redistricting


Information on redistricting in all 50 states is available by clicking on the state to the left. We have compiled important media coverage of national redistricting issues. For monthly updates on what's happening in redistricting nationwide, see What's New.

Mapping our Future is a state-by-state guide, from August 2000, to the details of redistricting at that time. It contains information on the statutes governing redistricting, litigation in the previous decade, any reform efforts and legislation on redistricting and an analysis of the political landscape in each state. The report now includes information about how redistricting has proceeded in each state, including a wide array of newspaper articles.

More information is also available in the voting rights section of the site.

George Mason University professor Michael McDonald reviews means to enhance competitiveness in redistricting . Election law attorney Edward Still regularly updates his website with redistricting media coverage.


Do you have information about redistricting in your state that you think we should include? Please send your redistricting tidbits to  info@fairvote.org. As always, we welcome your input, comments, and suggestions.

 http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/reports/remanual/frames.htm

3.


How Redistricting Protected Incumbents in 2001-2002 [or how well can you predict election outcomes on one variable--who designed the district? Who designed the district is more predictable than the amount of money spent on an election.]



Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 were dramatically less competitive than elections after the last round of redistricting in 1991-1992. By forcing most incumbents to run in districts that have new voters or perhaps against another incumbent, redistricting typically results in the two elections immediately following redistricting (such as 1992 and 1994) being the most competitive elections of a given decade. [AT LEAST THAT IS HOW IT USED TO BE. . .IT HAS INVERTED IN THE PAST 20 YEARS.]

But by many measures, the 2002 U.S. House elections were the least competitive elections since 1988, which makes it quite possible that House elections toward the end of the decade will likely be far less competitive than any in history. In 2002 only four incumbents lost to non-incumbent election challengers -- the fewest in history. More than 80% of seats were won by landslide, and the average victory margin was nearly 40%, which is a 70% to 30% blowout. The overview of our 2003 Dubious Democracy report has additional data quantifying this alarming state of affairs.

Some might ask whether 2002 was a "stay the course" year (as indeed was the case in 1988, when that very phrase was the mantra of George Bush in his successful presidential bid).

But voters showed great restlessness in other elections. [SHOWN IN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUGE GOVERNOR SWITCHES VS. LITTLE IF ANY LEGISLATIVE SWITCHES. THE DIFFERENCE? THE DISTRICTS.]

For example, half of the 36 gubernatorial races in 2002 [WITH A GOVERNORS DISTRICT BEING STATE-WIDE AND THUS 'UNGERRYMANDERABLE'] resulted in a party change. Of 70 statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate, the winner had 55% or more of the vote in fewer than half 47%), and only 24% of these races were won by 60% or more. In contrast, the winner had 55% or more of the vote in 91% (396) of the 435 U.S. House races, and ****fully 81% of House races were won by 60% or more.****

The Center has quantified just exactly how state lawmakers in most cases sought to protect incumbents of both parties.

For example:

Of incumbents who had close relatively close races in 2000, more than three out of four in 2002 ran in a district that was drawn to be more favorable for their party [MORE THAN THREE OUT OF FOUR]

Among all the races with incumbents, 20 districts were moved from being competitive/swing districts to generally safe districts for one party

In California and Texas, there were 14 districts in 2000 that were very competitive, with a partisanship measure of 47% to 53%. Using that same measure, there are only two such districts in 2002 [CALIFORNIA GERRYMANDERING OF DISTRICTS REDUCED PARTY COMPETITIVE DISTRICTS FROM 14 TO 2.]


In this short report, we address two questions:

1. What was the effect of redistricting [I.E, GERRYMANDERING] for the incumbents who had the most competitive U.S. House races in 2000?

2. How did the distribution of safe and competitive seats in 2000 compare with the distribution after the 2001-2 redistricting? [WERE THERE MORE COMPETITIVE ELECTIONS AFTER GERRYMANDERING OR LESS?]

Question One - Incumbents in Close Races in 2000

To answer the first question, we looked at the 59 House races in which the 2000 winner had less than 55%. [in other words, the 'competitive' group of districts.] We then excluded three categories of races 1) states with only 1 district and Maine, since redistricting did not occur in those states; 2) districts in which the incumbent is not running for re?election (we will note that some of those retirements were induced by redistricting); and 3) districts that in October 2002 lacked 2002 partisanship data (the 60 districts in the following states: Alabama, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina). Those exceptions left 46 incumbents running for re-election in new districts in 2002 who had received less than 55% of the vote in 2000.

Of those 46 incumbents, 37 of them had their districts made safer [by gerrymandering] in that the district was redrawn so that the presidential candidate of their party won a higher percentage of the vote in their district; only nine districts were made less safe for these incumbent. Here is the breakdown of number of seats by party:

Safer Less Safe Total
Democrat 17 6 23
Republican 20 3 23
Total 37 9 46

The nine incumbents whose districts became less safe are listed here. Note that hardly any had to run in significantly worse districts - meaning ones where the district was tilted more than a tilt of 1.5% in the direction of the other party. The two exceptions were Republican Connie Morella and Democrat Bill Luther - and they were two of the four incumbents to lose to non-incumbent challengers in 2003.

NOTE THE CONTEXTS THAT MAKE ELECTIONS MORE COMPETITIVE.

Note also that Washington state and Minnesota account for five of the nine incumbents made less safe; Washington uses a redistricting commission, and Minnesota was impacted by independent candidates ****Jesse Ventura's opposition to incumbent protection in redistricting.****

Democrats (6)
Arkansas-4 Mike Ross (1.1% more Republican)
Minnesota-2 Bill Luther (2.3% more Republican - running in new CD #) Minnesota-4 Betty McCollum (0.4% more Republican)
Texas-11 Chet Edwards (1.2% more Republican)
Wash.-1 Jay Inslee (0.8% more Democratic)
Wash.-2 Rick Larsen (0.4% more Democratic)

Republicans (3)
Indiana-8 John Hostettler (0.7% more Democratic)
Maryland-8 Connie Morella (5.0% more Democratic)
Minnesota-6 Mark Kennedy (1.4% more Democratic - running in new CD# )

GERRYMANDERING PROTECTS INCUMBENTS, REMOVES PARTY COMPETITION

CASE EXAMPLE: FLORIDA, HOME BASE OF THE BUSH REICH

In contrast to very limited damage done to threatened incumbents, there are numerous examples of pronounced moves to protect threatened incumbents. For example, Florida Republicans Clay Shaw and Ric Keller were the only candidates to win by close margins in Florida in 2000. Their districts were made on average 5% more Republican (meaning a margin swing of 10%) in the Republican-drawn plan. They both won easily in 2002.

In a further sign of partisanship in Florida, the five clearly safe Florida Democratic incumbents had their districts made even safer, but the two Democratic incumbents in potentially competitive seats had their districts made on average 4% more Republican - one of these incumbents, Karen Thurman, was one of the four incumbents to lose to a non-incumbent challenger.

Question 2 - Redistricting and number of competitive districts

To answer the second question, we looked at all the races in which a 2000 incumbent is running for re?election and excluded the states with one district and Maine (which has not yet redistricted) and states for which in October 2002 we lacked partisanship data. We then classified each district as likely to be competitive or not in open seats based on whether the district partisanship (as measured by the relative vote in the presidential race) was between 45% to 55% or outside that range.

Out of 323 incumbents meeting our criteria above, we found that a total of 20 fewer incumbents (from 132 down to 112) now represent districts that are in our competitive range. The number of seats in each category is as follows:

2000 TO 2002: GERRYMANDERING MAKES DISTRICTS 'SAFER' AND LESS COMPETITIVE

............GOP Incumb. Dem. Incumbents. Total Incumb. Year
...........Safe Competitive Safe Competitive Safe Competitive
2000 87 74 104 58 191 132
2002 99 62 112 50 211 112

CALIFORNIA AND FLORIDA: 2 DISTRICTS OUT OF 85 TOTAL, LEFT COMPETITIVE

ONLY ONE COMPETITIVE LEGISLATIVE ELECTION IN EACH STATE

Going a bit farther in this approach to incumbent protection, we looked at two states that have been highlighted as ones with incumbent-protection plans: California and Texas.

In those two states, there were 14 districts [ONLY A FEW] (5 out of 30 in Texas, 9 out of 52 in California) in the 2000 election that we would categorize as very competitive -- partisanship measures of 47% to 53% [i.e., 'competitive' between Democrat and Republican, regardless that they represent the same corporate state polity biased against the citizen and against the consumer].

In the current districts, however, there are now only 2 out of 85 -- one in each state. No incumbents were defeated in those two states in 2002, and only four of those state's 82 seats were decided by margins of less than 10%.

CALIFORNIA

California is particularly pronounced in its gerrymander.

In 2000, for example our model of making projections outlined in Monopoly Politics 2002 did not make projections in [ONLY] nine of the state's 52 House races. [2000: THEY PREDICTED 41 OF 52 CALIFORNIA 'ELECTIONS' BASED ON ONLY ONE VARIABLE: WHO DESIGNED THE DISTRICT, ALONE.]

In 2002, the model makes projections in fully 52 of 53 races -- only not making a projection in the race to fill former Congressman Gary Condit's seat, which does have a clear lean toward Democrats that led to a relatively comfortable Democratic win. On average, the six Democratic incumbents who had been in competitive districts had their district made 4.8% more Democratic, while the nine Republican incumbents in competitive districts had their district made on average 3.5% more Republican. [IN 2002: THEY PREDICTED 52 OF 53 CALIFORNIA 'ELECTIONS' BASED ON ONLY ONE VARIABLE: WHO DESIGNED THE DISTRICT, ALONE.]

As a result, our model now projects 52 of the 53 current incumbents in California as comfortable winners going into 2004 - meaning projected to win by at least 10%. Note that these incumbents really are safe, at least for 2004 and their seats are likely safe for their party ***for the entire decade*** unless more seats become open. Our model projected 1,091 winners by at least 10% in 1996-2002; none of those projected winners lost, and only 21(less than 2%) didn't win by at least a 10% margin. [THEY HAD 100% ACCURACY IN THEIR PREDICTIONS, BASED ON ONLY ONE VARIABLE: WHO DESIGNED THE DISTRICT, ALONE.]

 http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/incumbentprotection.htm

3.


You'll love (to hate) this book's information, particuarly Part One, "Geography is Destiny":

Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics by Steven Hill
 link to www.amazon.com


4.

Overview: Dubious Democracy 2003-2004

June 2003



Generally, the first year after redistricting results in the most competitive House elections of the decade. After the most recent redistricting, there were fewer competitive races than in the least competitive year of the decade from 1992-2000.

This problem -- a lack of competitive elections -- is only going to get worse from 2004 to 2010.


In 2002, over 80% of US House races were won by landslide margins of at least 20%. Fewer than one in ten races were by less than a 10% margin. This year's elections were the least competitive races since 1988.

The first year after redistricting is generally the most competitive year of the decade. For example, in 1992 there were 84 competitive races, and 61% of the races were won by landslides. As incumbents settle into their districts throughout the course of the decade, elections generally become less competitive. In 2000, there were only 42 competitive races, half as many as in 1992, and 77% were won by landslide margins of at least 20%.

This has a chilling implication for the decade ahead of us:

It's likely that the most competitive year of 2002-2010 will be less competitive than the least competitive year of 1992-2000.

If you're dismayed that growing numbers of eligible Americans are choosing not to vote, you may not want to continue reading, because it's only going to get worse unless we start making fundamental changes in the way we hold elections and elect our representatives.

Over 90% of Americans live in congressional districts that are essentially one-party monopolies. This means that most voters are faced with unappealing choices: ratify the incumbent party, waste their vote on a candidate who is sure to lose, or sit out the race. Not surprisingly, increasing numbers of American are opting for the latter option.

So much for a healthy two-party system, where issues ignored by one major party can be meaningfully addressed by the other one [if you believe that of course. Only third/fourth parties however can keep first/second parties checked and balanced. IF there are only two parties, they are unable to 'check and balance' each other, because they lead to a cooperating duopoly.]. And if you'd like to hear about the policy ideas of independent and third party candidates, you're even more out of luck.

Instead, we've got to face a very troubling electoral landscape:

The average victory margin in U.S. House races was 39% -- meaning winners on average won more than 69% of votes cast in their race. Only 38, fewer than one in ten races, were won by competitive margins of less than 10%.
The landslide index increased to 81%, meaning more than four out of five races were won by more than 20%. Since 1960, only one year, 1988, had a higher landslide index.

Only 4 out of 386 incumbents lost to facing non-incumbent challengers. That's the highest re-election rates since 1954 (and possibly earlier), at a time when public opinion of the Congress is not very flattering.

Nearly three out of five seats (254) are held by incumbents who have won their last two elections by "landslide" margins of least 20% (earning our "untouchable" tag).

Less than 39% of eligible Americans cast a vote in 2000; only one in four adults voted for the U.S. House member who represents them. [read that once more. This is nothing to do with democracy. This is a corporate gerrymandered state.]

COMPARING 1992 to 2000

1992: Republican candidates for the House in 1992 won 45% of votes around the country, but only 41% of seats.

2000: In 2000, they won 48% of votes, but 51% of seats. Such swings and distortions are often magnified in particular states.

STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM: START BLAMING THE COLLUSIVELY CRIMINAL DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTIES THAT ARE STEALING ALL ELECTIONS THROUGH GERRYMANDERING]

It's time to stop blaming the victims of the American electoral system - the voters - and start addressing the root causes of feelings of alienation and lack of representation.

The Center for Voting and Democracy advocates for full representation, instant runoff voting and public interest redistricting methods to improve representation and accountability, increase competition, enhance debate of issues and ultimately improve public policy and national unity.

Read the rest of the Dubious Democracy 2003 report for disturbing information about the state of our democracy.

 http://www.fairvote.org/dubdem/overview.htm

5.

LEARN HOW IT IS DONE WITH THIS COMPUTER GAME:
Redistricting Roulette


Try your hand at Redistricting Roulette!

In 2001-2002, nearly every political jurisdiction in the nation will adjust its legislative district lines based on new information provided by the U.S. Census. Political insiders know that the way legislative lines are drawn has a major impact on who wins and who loses. Unfortunately, the public often is not aware of this impact and typically plays little role in redistricting.

In Redistricting Roulette, imagine a town - let's call it Geometry Town -- of 125 voters, with 65 "circle" voters and 60 "square" voters. (You can think of circles as Republicans and squares as Democrats, if that makes it easier. Yes, voters cannot be so easily pegged in real life, but redistricting experts know that voters often are more predictable than many assume.)

In a race for the mayor of Geometry Town, the candidate backed by the circles would most likely win. But what about in the elections for the five seats on the city council? If they were elected in a winner-take-all, "at-large" election -- with every voter having five votes and able to give only one vote to a given candidate -- then circle candidates might still elect all the seats.

Such winner-take-all results are one reason why many legislators instead represent "one-seat" districts. In the case of Geometry Town, the five council members would represent five different parts of the town. Given the breakdown of 65 circle votes and 60 square voters, one might expect a districting plan to produce three districts with a majority of circle voters and two with a majority of square voters. But a spin of the gerrymandering wheel can result in dramatically different results. The moral of the story? Don't let redistricting be left to chance in your town, your county and your state!

Try your hand at Redistricting Roulette (requires Internet Explorer 4.x or Netscape 3.x and above). Read the instructions in the opening box, then move on to see how the drawing of the lines can manipulate the outcome of the election -- the voters don't move, but the winners change with the changing of the district lines. To explore the impact of five alternative districting plans, move your mouse over one of the five buttons and see which side comes out the winner and the loser. To see the break down of which side wins in each plan, click on the button.

(To have a copy of Redistricting Roulette on your home computer, you can download Redistricting Roulette. After downloading, put the file into a folder of your choice and then double-click the file. Wheel.exe will self extract to c:\wheel and then you can run index.html from the browser on your computer.)

 http://www.fairvote.org/wheel/index.html

6

SEE your states gerrymanders:


7.

Every 10 years, elected officials in nearly every political jurisdiction in the nation carve up the political landscape into new legislative districts. Some cities and states have procedures to promote public interest in this redistricting process, but most do little to prevent the creation of a hodgepodge of gerrymandered districts. With increasingly sophisticated computer software, polling results and demographic data, incumbent legislators quite literally choose the voters before the voters have a chance to choose them. As a result of the redistricting process, most voters are locked into one-party districts where their only real choice at election time is to ratify the incumbent or heir apparent of the party controlling that district.

The Center for Voting and Democracy seeks to inform the public about redistricting -- both as it happens now and how it could be done differently. The current round of redistricting was triggered by the 2000 census. The major parties have been busily plotting new plans for years. It is essential that the public be involved in this process. There are reform options to consider, ranging from the moderate to the profound:

- Make the redistricting process a very public one , with full news media coverage and citizen input.

- Take the redistricting process out of the hands of the incumbents and their parties by either instituting clear criteria that mapmakers must follow or by establishing independent, nonpartisan commissions. Iowa and Arizona use such approaches. [or, as I suggest, kill another bird with this stone and provide feedback from tangible environmental risk areas of particular peoples--using watershed districts which are independent districts.]

- Convert the U.S.-style "winner-take-all" voting system to a proportional representation system or semi-proportional voting system. Proportional voting systems are used by most of the world's established democracies and make it much more difficult to gerrymander elections. A semi-proportional system like cumulative voting could be used to in three-seat legislative districts. From 1870 to 1980, Illinois used cumulative voting in three-seat districts to elect its lower house, and most observers believe it had a profoundly positive impact on the state's politics. One result was that nearly every district had two-party representation, giving voters more choice, better representation, and creating more competition. [personally, these choices fail on the "100%" test: they fail to force parties to appeal to all voters, and fail to lead parties to attempt to represent widest amount of people. In my opinion only 'proportional representation with a majoritarian allotment' (see Toward a Bioregional State website) fulfils this concern.]

Mapping Our Future, our state-by-state redistricting guide, gives voters timely information about how redistricting will occur in each state, how citizens can influence the process and how the process can be improved.

Below are additional articles and web links that provide information about different approaches to redistricting and why it is so important for the public to be involved in the process.

 http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/index.html


8.

Monopoly Politics 2002:
How "No Choice" Elections Rule in a Competitive House

A Center for Voting and Democracy Report
Report released September 30, 2002
Results reported November 8, 2002
2004 Projections posted November 8, 2002



CVD's model of projecting House winners based only on past federal election results and the senior of incumbents had a 99.9% accuracy over the past 3 elections. Out of more than 900 projections over the last 3 elections cycles based, the model made only one incorrect projection. We have applied the model to the 2002 elections and report our findings in a detailed report. Using data available as as November 6, we report on the accuracy of our projections.

Great effort went into gathering the data used in this report. Because the Center believes this information should be readily available to the public, we are releasing all of the data and the precise methodology used. We hope that members of the public will make use of the data and the model and experiment with adjusting variables and assumptions to gain a better understanding of how US House elections function.

Full Report: Monopoly Politics 2002: How "No Choice" Elections Rule in a Competitive House

Data and Model: This link contains spreadsheets for making prjoections for House races for any year from 1996-2000 as well as 2002, all of the data used in these projections, and detailed explanations of the model and all of its variables.

100% accuracy of 2002 projections and 2004 projections in more than 350 races are already available. (November 8)

The September 30 press conference was broadcast live on CSPAN-1 and re-aired four times. It can be viewed at cspan.rm. You can also view the press conference on CSPAN's Politics page by searching for the September 30 listing "The Race for the U.S. House: Past, Present & Future."

 http://www.fairvote.org/2002/index.html
VIDEO:  http://www.fairvote.org/2002/cspan.rm

9.

SEE your gerrymandered districts:

what you can do for Oregon access:

In Oregon, Public Access

Statewide public hearings are required. The public may propose plans of their own or present testimony. Also, public terminals are available in the "committee services" office at the capital for the public to use in drawing their own proposed maps.The legislature had a page on redistricting; but since it failed to make plans by July 1, the Secretary of State now has a redistricting site with a schedule of hearings, a draft plan, and an area for citizens to make comments.

 http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/reports/remanual/or.htm

10.

Glossary




Communities of Interest - Respecting the integrity of neighborhoods and groups of people that traditionally have associated with one another by not splitting them into different districts when redrawing districts

Compactness - The degree to which a district full covers an area; more technically, it is the ratio of length to width as measured from the "center" of a district

Contiguity - Requirement that a district be all in one piece; in other words, a person should be able to travel through all parts of a district without needing to cross through another district. In some jurisdictions, a district in which two of its parts meet only at the corners is not considered contiguous. In others, districts actually can intersect at a point in space where, theoretically, one does not need to step into the neighboring district to continue on in the original district.

Constituent - Citizens residing in a particular candidate's area or district.

District Cores - Seeking to preserve existing districts as much as possible when drawing new districts.

Gingles Test - Criteria governing lawsuits brought under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as spelled out by the Supreme Court in Thornburgh v. Gingles. The three criteria are (1) Is the racial minority group sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district in the jurisdiction? (2) Is the minority group politically cohesive? (3) Does the majority community vote as a bloc to defeat the minority's preferred candidate?

Incumbents - An elected official already serving in office. In redistricting terms, it refers to whether it is admissible to openly see to enhance the electoral opportunities of an incumbent - meaning seek to protect them from competition

Minority Vote Dilution - Any practice that can be legally deemed as weakening the voting strength of racial minorities protected by the Voting Rights Act.

Multi-Seat Election - More than one candidate is elected from a particular area.

Political Subdivision - Requirement to maintain political jurisdiction lines intact, such as county lines

Population Equality - Requirement that districts conform to the "one person, one vote" principle, which requires states to justify even slight variations of population between districts. Typically the "ideal" population size for a single-member district is determined by dividing the total population by the number of districts to be drawn. Districts that have more or fewer people are said to deviate from this ideal.

Proportional Representation - Proportional representation (PR) describes a range of voting systems used in most established democracies. The principle of PR is that parties or like-minded groupings of individuals should win seats in legislative assemblies in proportion to their share of the popular vote; to provide for these results, various voting methods are used in multi-seat districts.

Racially Polarized Voting - A consistent relationship between the race of the voter and candidate whereby race is the determinant factor in how voters vote - typically understood as "whites vote for whites, blacks vote for blacks," but more broadly meaning nearly all white voters and nearly all black voters typically support different candidates.

Shaw v. Reno - 1993 ruling by Supreme Court that found that districts can be unconstitutional "racial gerrymanders" if clearly drawn for the overriding purpose of pooling racial minorities into a single district; racial gerrymandering historically had meant the drawing of districts by the white majority to prevent racial minorities from opportunities to elect seats .

Single-Member District - A specific boundary of an area where only one individual is elected to represent everyone in that area in a particularly legislative assembly

Voting Rights Act - 1965 federal law ensuring equal opportunity and fairness in the voting process. Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are of particular importance. Section 2 prohibits minority vote dilution due to laws or practices that weaken the voting strength of racial minorities. Section 2 prevents jurisdictions from enacting or maintaining practices designed to give minorities an unfair chance to elect candidates of their choice and is enforceable nationwide. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain areas of the country to obtain "preclearance" from the US Attorney General or the US District Court for the District of Columbia for any changes in laws or practices that involve voting. These areas that must seek preclearance are known as "covered jurisdictions."

 http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting/reports/remanual/glossary.htm


11.

Toward a Bioregional State:

Toward a Bioregional State:
This is a site of letters similar to the Federalist Papers, though it is written by a bioregional "Publius."

Publius was the pen name adopted by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, as they made their arguments in popular newspapers for their popularizing of the United States Constitution, in the 1780s.

However, unlike them, this is a bioregional Publius who wants democracy in practice instead of democracy in the abstract, and one who wants sustainabilty instead of unsustainability.

We are facing a similar project presently, I am arguing--how can we achive a democracy that is environmentally sustainable, when the present frameworks of democracy are what are leading us into environmental degradation? The following is a list of requirements, as well as arguments for why these requirements should be adopted, and why the present forms of government in the United States are leading us toward environmental degradation, low voter turnouts, and unrepresentative parties.

However, what I am arguing is that these are general structural requirements for all states as they move towards sustainability, instead of talking only about the United States. The United States can be considered the running example in these letters though. Structurally, the state in general requires changing, instead of only a change on the the level of political party ideas for instance.

These bioregional letters propose how existing unsustainable states could be 'made over' into sustainable states: typically, a different topic is addressed in each letter.

There are 27 bioregional Publius letters--so far. State structures are far from the only aspect of importance, though they are a formal requirement. (I am working on other issues beside the state--science, finance, and consumption; see a list of the letters and bioregional maps of Wisconsin political districts, or read them in the order they were created by following the pages below for continuity, since they build upon themselves instead of represent separate topics.)

The 20th letter is a petition that 'ecologizes' the U.S. Constitution, compiling into a single document all the formal framework ideas for working towards sustainability. See the link from the list of all letters, above.

12.

COMMENTS FROM THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SIGNED THE BIOREGIONAL STATE PETITION:

"Damned right!" --N.S., Wisconsin.

"Instead of undermining and destroying the inherent protections of liberty as USA PATRIOT has done, this constitution espouses and enhances the intent of freedom as defined by America's Founding Fathers. I wholeheartedly approve of such, and would like to see more legislation of this kind." -- M.M, Texas.

"Great stuff.. tired of a lobbyist, elite form of govt..." - N.T., Florida

"I really think that the owner of this website should not have the website ask ones E-mail address. Some people might not feel very comfortable entering their own web address. This is one of the first times I have ever entered a valid E-mail Address. Your very lucky you know. Other than that, I like this website very much!" --- T.L. [you can always leave out your email if you want.]

"I called for a new Constitutional Convention after the USSC installed Bush, thereby voiding our Republic. Good work!" - H.W., Florida

"American citizen residing overseas." -- R.F., Japan



A RECAP:


TOWARD A BIOREGIONAL STATE: People Have Right to Stop Ecological Tyranny & Make Democracy

"Presently we are trapped within these unecological democracies that are underwriting and protecting this process of politically sponsored ecological degradation. How do we instead explain to others that the state has an Ecological Contract with its people, and if such a contract is neglected, they can overthrow it as an ecological tyranny?" . . . ". . .a people's self-interest is geographically specific and protective of a particular geography. . . .Citizen feedback is always in and from particular geographic spaces and human-environmental contexts. To create the additional checks and balances for an ecologically sound developmentalism is merely to latch onto and facilitate an already-existing affirmative feedback from watersheds/bioregions that is ignored though waiting to be formally organized. This is done by aligning political feedback as closely as possible to a direct feedback from particular geographically specific areas into the state. My [first] suggestion is through watershed based vote districting."

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/12/277248.shtml

I'm all for watershed districts, but... 15.Jan.2004 12:07

Bison Boy

I'm all for thinking about watershed districts, and I think that making the legislature nonpartisan is an important step.

One major difficulty I see with watershed representation is that to do it properly, one needs to re-align the borders of the states themselves. I just don't see how that's possible short of an overthrow or rewrite of the US Constitution. That's too high a price to pay by a vast margin, in my book. I'll never support an overthrow, and a constitutional convention is *not* limited to a single subject... who knows what other damage might be done in the process?

We could adopt watershed districting just in Oregon, and that's worth considering... but I don't see how the current partisan legislature could ever bring itself to do it. (I think it's too complex for an intitiative; the single-section rule for constitution-changing inititatives would be hard to avoid here.) A nonpartisan legislature looks to me like a necessary first step to reach watershed districting. It may not be a sufficient step, but it sure looks necessary!

But on the subject of watershed districting...

It seems to me that one of the best reasons to adopt watershed districting is to reduce pollution, by making *everyone* accountable for what goes downstream. To this end, true watershed districting would be a hierachical system of tributaries: the Santiam polity is part of the Willamette is part of the Columbia is part of the Pacific.

Oregon has two ultimate watersheds: the west and north of the state drain into the Pacific, while the southeast drains into the Great Basin. If we truly adopted watershed representaion, there's no reason for these two ultimate watersheds to answer to one another *at all*. This may not be a bad thing, but anyone thinking about watershed districts had best be ready for it. (This divides the US into four overall regions: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Great Basin. Montana gets divided into *three* parts!)

Second, there's the question of how one rates the proportional influence of various watersheds. If it's proportional by water-flow, that would dramatically disrepresent the people east of the Cascades. If it's by land area, that would dramatically over-represent the people in vast shallow basins. Do the Columbia and the Nestucca have equal weight because they both drain into the Pacific directly? If influence is proportional to population, does that make watershed districts irrelevant?

It's a thorny problem.

I have given this some thought over the last couple years, and I wonder if watershed representation really works for a statewide legislative body. Sure, it'd work GREAT for a body delegated to deal with pollution and some other issues, but I'm not at all sure it enhances democracy for the general business of running a state.

Unicameral legislature 15.Jan.2004 14:05

Flowerday

I would most certainly sign the petition.

Nebraska not only has a non-partisan legislature but a unicameral legislature as well. Only the House exists, not the Senate. So if there is any petition out there for a unicameral legislature, I'll also sign that without batting an eyelash.

perceptive; it's in website; bioregional state more than watershed districts 15.Jan.2004 14:52

response

1.

you wrote, "It seems to me that one of the best reasons to adopt watershed districting is to reduce pollution, by making *everyone* accountable for what goes downstream" To this end, true watershed districting would be a hierachical system of tributaries: the Santiam polity is part of the Willamette is part of the Columbia is part of the Pacific"...

Yes, perceptive, I've followed that line of thought out as well--there is something about how I recomment this plays out in this upstream/downstream context: in arranging judicial districts to be affected by this with the 'most' downstream areas with the highest and widest court jurisdictions of the linked watershed basins, instead of them being corrupted and influenced politically only by 'upstream' interests).

However, on your idea that this innately means removing everything (and somehow ignoring transportation and urban hierachies of scale) and starting anew with larger more consolidated states. This doesn't work: Eastern European borders were all 'redrawn' in this manner. States as they have grown up have an infrastructural investment that is wise to conserve. Plus, states trade with one another. Beside, I still am humanocentric enough to worry about human corruption because absolute power corrupts absolutely, and know that simply ripping apart things and hoping for the best is a rather shocking suggestion to me. This is to add more local checks and balances as the priority. I suppose I see attempts to ideological hold to such a strong reading of this idea of wateshed voting and its corrolary idea of subsequent differnet battles instead of cooperation across different watersheds) can miss the point that human corruption and isolationism comes out of it, despite however 'nice' it may satisfy intellectual senses of purity, and that it misses the point at least it seems to me of providing more local priorities and pluralities in voting.

you wrote: "Oregon has two ultimate watersheds: the west and north of the state drain into the Pacific, while the southeast drains into the Great Basin" If we truly adopted watershed representaion, there's no reason for these two ultimate watersheds to answer to one another *at all*" This may not be a bad thing, but anyone thinking about watershed districts had best be ready for it" (This divides the US into four overall regions: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Great Basin" Montana gets divided into *three* parts!)

I like the abstract states as they are and see lots of arguments for continuity and piecemeal change over disruptive change. With this priority, personally, I see nothing 'wrong' with the abstract state boundaries seen in many Western states of the US. Why? Well human states are indeed abstract entities. It helps to remember this than attempt to paper over it. Personally, as you phrase it, "you can do it right" by even keeping the abstract states, if you keep in mind my basis in wanting more localism input into political econmic decisions--from each watershed, based on its own watershed politics--instead of repressed or filtered out by unrepresentative unsustainable elites in hold of corrupt states.

you wrote: "Oregon has two ultimate watersheds: the west and north of the state drain into the Pacific, while the southeast drains into the Great Basin" If we truly adopted watershed representaion, there's no reason for these two ultimate watersheds to answer to one another *at all*" This may not be a bad thing, but anyone thinking about watershed districts had best be ready for it" (This divides the US into four overall regions: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Great Basin" Montana gets divided into *three* parts!)

There's plenty of reasons to maintain continuity! You are conflating two ideas: voting districts and borders. These are separate issues in my mind. I would only recommend additional checks and balances throughout instead of substractions or destructions to existing institutions. The bioregional state is above anything else a recipe for more checks and balances, instead of a wrecking ball. I think you are misconstruing the whole point, based on a lack of familiarity with the overall ideas, of which the watershed district is simply (as I have been told) the most "charismatic idea" of it. The watershed district helps to introduce certain concepts as well, which influence OTHER ideas of checks and balances. The watershed district is only a small part of the checks and balances of the bioregional state, instead of the bioregional state being entirely and only about watershed districts (and from which thus you were assuming that 'borders' as well as voting districts come to be identical. This is far from the case. Please note that if you browse through the website (and upcoming draft manuscript, already scouting out for publishers, with much added. If you know of another good publisher, just post me a line here, or send them to the website itself.)

Separing the ideas of legacy states and watershed voting, I would recommend those watershed voters residing in these select watersheds on state abstract borders, because the states are 'intruding' upon them in this way, be granted power to vote in all states that have an influence on their watershed. The whole drive of the bioregional state is more checks and balances on informal elites in states. Border watershed voters are affected by the plurality of states and the voters should be able to give feedback to a plurality of states. However, there are differences in 'in watersheds' and 'whole watersheds' that get arcane, on the website which I recommend as another check and balance on this. I've thought about this a while and do take these ideas seriously as a program of action for sustainability.

People in watersheds have the right to choose to vote against the 'ecological footprint' of the plural of state politics that is effecting their human health, ecological, or economic situation. That seems to me to be the point here, to faciliate localism and feedback. Presently they are kept from doing so. Overall, in the bioregional state, one gets a morphed mix of consolidated state and federalism, instead of simply federalism--because of the ecologcial ramifications of border areas are a federal issue and a multi-state issue instead of simply belonging to a particular abstract state. This is explained in more detail at the website.

Adding checks and balances instead of substrating whole frameworks seems a more accurate and pragmatic way to handle the legacy of different (unsustainable) frameworks. The dreamy attempt to always 'start anew' insted of make boring incremental changes can lead to always keeping you at square one, while dreaming of infinity. There is a whole 'Bioregional letter' devoted to border areas issues with several more points.

I still like the idea of checks and balances and split up states in a federalist framework. The only difficulty I see ecologically with such areas is that many watersheds on borders of the country's very abstract state lines are very 'urbanophilic'. The state boundary lines were drawn along rivers, etc., particularly in the Eastern and Southern areas. This only puts poplation aggregation areas on state lines, instead of within particular jurisdictions of states...Most of the SMSA (standard metropolitan statistical areas) of the United States are border sprawl as a consequence of this. The more abstract lines of the West for the most part actually put--more or less--many more urban areas within state boundaries, percentage-wise, instead of like the South and East where they states are drawn along ecological clines which draw the population areas to be all along their borders, instead of within them.

2.

"Second, there's the question of how one rates the proportional influence of various watersheds. If it's proportional by water-flow, that would dramatically disrepresent the people east of the Cascades"

Personally, I understand your point--though fail to see your argument for how this is related or transferrable (or important to transfer, etc.) to voting as feedback. It's less that water flow is the fetish, it is that watershed are catchment basins for human being's political economic risks.

The focus is on the human risk--the merged human/environmental issue--instead of the ecolgicial issues all by themelves. Thus, they, as the experiencers of the risk, have an innate right to have their politics facilitated this way back against those public and private interests that pressure such environmental degradation.

Actually, the bioregional state I would consider having the principle of equity among all watershed voters, instead of some watershed voters 'being more equal than others' to use that hypocritical phrase, simply because of water flow. It is catchment basins for risk and how to demote human/ecological risk pressured by merged public/private pressures (and the way this risk is tranferred in a string of watersheds) instead of water scale of flow. With equal weight for all watersheds, this connects to an interesting argumenta about the political/ecological effects of unequally distributed development: do larger areas in terms of population deserve more representation, when these urbanizing areas contain the politics and consumptive frameworks that are destroying ecologically the depopulating (rural) ones? I would argue it is better to give all watershed voters equal rights, and then let the informal politics and human agency work it out--than to bias an ecological feedback towards a degradative politics based on considering population the only issue of voting. I (as well as many other empirical studies I have read), imply that there is a whole geographic dimension to politics that a populationist view on voting entirely misses. In other words, yet another balance: between watersheds and population voting. Certainly the Enlightenment ideals of 'one person one vote' hold in the watersheds, though (to coin a phrase) "all watersheds are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. life, liberty, and the pursuit of ecological sustainability..."

3. on border areas

It's all on the website. It is out ecological and human duty to remove the informal gatekeeping of unrepresentative, unsustainable elites--expose their corrupting tinkering with the formal frameworks of democracy. The district issue is only one level of elite corruption. To make a short discussion of only one point about it, No where do I have confidence at this stage (or any stage) that a violent revolution would work. I do know that militaries can be repressive as well as progressive, though I do know that the military is rarely a stable form of government and it is just another form of informal clientelism and demoting of checks and balances on power.

In conclusion, all I am saying that the whole formal frameworks of voting/districting in this country are bogus and deserve to be jettisoned because they are factors that are stopping democracy instead of facilitating it. What would I recommend to start? Nothing formal at all.

I recommend setting up entirely informal civic councils based on watershed-internal 'popularity contests.' I would call them Civic Democratic Institutions. If ecology is for the long haul, humans should think that way to, and work to establish excactly what are the priorities of particular watersheds, and work to establish their ability to converse and know about their particular risk areas, and to know their local leaders and the people who are admired, just as they are in whatever life capacity they are already doing instead of based on electoral promises that are so many white lies. Only with this established and people knowing about their particular ecologies and people in them, can people learn to widen their citizenship debates and build alliances and networks, defending themselves ecologically and work to modify unsustainable state level political frameworks for the long haul.

And on that note, I leave you with three links:

#21 Civic Democratic Institutions
Featured in Article I. of the Constitution of Sustainability (Bioregional Letter #20), is a framework that provides checks and balances between:

informal, local, geographically specific coalition and leadership building--

and external, clientelistic, ideological, party politics.

The CDI thus provides a check and balance between informal and formal politics, making sure that formal politics through informal parties is unable to gatekeep and frustrate the political agendas of citizens of local, state, and/or federal governments, due to lack of organization on the local level by citizens.

You can read the short description of the CDI in Bioregional Letter #20 above, or you can go to the website below, which has longer descriptions.

Bioregional Letter #21: Civic Democratic Institutions
 http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~mrkdwhit/biostate/bioregion21.htm






We the People of world, removing the burdens of unsustainability imposed on us by unrepresentative frameworks of government, science, finance, and consumption, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common social and ecological defense with the political inclusion of trading arrangements, promote the general Welfare therein, and do engrain ourselves and direct our governments to move towards sustainability and away from the tyranny of unsustainability to secure the Blessings of Sustainability and its Liberties to ourselves and our Posterity. We ordain and establish this Constitution of Sustainability.

 http://www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/constitution_of_sustainability/


Surf your watershed, find it and learn who and what organizations are there to help:

Surf Your Watershed is a service to help you locate, use, and share environmental information about your state and watershed.
 http://www.epa.gov/surf/

Response 15.Jan.2004 19:57

Bison Boy

Well, I'll freely admit that I have not read the bulk of (or even more than a very a small portion of) the Bioregional letters. I had been thinking about watershed representation from another perspective for a couple years, more off than on, and so I was interested to see that someone else is thinking about it too.

My perspective leads me to be more concerned with borders and boundaries than yours, apparently. While there is no longer any particular reason to think that Oregon may need to defend itself from Washington at the Columbia crossings, that border exists as it does becuase of a habit of boundary-drawing that is ancient and military in origin. As I see it, rivers have become boundaries between nations and states because they were militarily important and defensible, and remain so in modern times.

But in terms of aligning communities of common interests, basing borders on the divides between watersheds makes much more sense than splitting rivers down the middle. Vancouver and Portland have much more in common than do Portland and Medford, for instance.

"Actually, the bioregional state I would consider having the principle of equity among all watershed voters, instead of some watershed voters 'being more equal than others' to use that hypocritical phrase, simply because of water flow. It is catchment basins for risk and how to demote human/ecological risk pressured by merged public/private pressures (and the way this risk is tranferred in a string of watersheds) instead of water scale of flow."

It sounds more than a little like the US Senate, where all States have equal representation. Interesting idea. Like the Senate, it would need to be supplemented by another house of a congress that was representative by population, or be pretty glaringly undemocratinc.

"I recommend setting up entirely informal civic councils based on watershed-internal 'popularity contests.' I would call them Civic Democratic Institutions. If ecology is for the long haul, humans should think that way to, and work to establish excactly what are the priorities of particular watersheds, and work to establish their ability to converse and know about their particular risk areas, and to know their local leaders and the people who are admired, just as they are in whatever life capacity they are already doing instead of based on electoral promises that are so many white lies."

These are good ideas. (And, by the way, I certianly hope no one thought I was advocating some sudden change! I'm all for gradualism in something so fundamental.)

If I may say so, what you need before a publisher is a good editor. You have some very good ideas here, but they are a bit difficult to extract from the writing as it stands. (I'm an intelligent and motivated reader, and even I have difficulty following your writing.) This is not bad, it's not an insult, but clear and accessible writing is a skill that not everyone excels at. An editor can help you with this, and make those good ideas more accessible. You're talking about some interesting and even revolutionary ways of thinking about the world, and such ideas need to be presented simply and clearly first; then elaborated later.

Good luck!