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Democracy with no choices
Many candidates run unopposed
W democracy
In this 2015 file photo, Minority Whip Carolyn Fleming Hugley, D-Columbus, right, and Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, left, attend a meeting at the Capitol in Atlanta. In 2017, Georgia Republicans sought to change the boundaries of several state House districts, including a couple won by Republicans by single-digit margins last November. Some of the proposed shifts sought to move heavily black precincts _ where voters overwhelmingly support Democrats _ from Republican-held districts into ones occupied by Democrats. Although the bill passed the House, it died in the Senate. Hugley criticized it as gerrymandering intended to create safer Republican seats. - photo by Associated Press
When voters cast ballots for state representatives last fall, millions of Americans essentially had no choice: In 42 percent of all such elections, candidates faced no major party opponents.Political scientists say a major reason for the lack of choices is the way districts are drawn — gerrymandered, in some cases, to ensure as many comfortable seats as possible for the majority party by creating other districts overwhelmingly packed with voters for the minority party."With an increasing number of districts being drawn to deliberately favor one party over another — and with fewer voters indicating an interest in crossover voting — lots of potential candidates will look at those previous results and come to a conclusion that it's too difficult to mount an election campaign in a district where their party is the minority," said John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who has tracked partisan competition in elections.While the rate of uncontested races dipped slightly from 2014 to 2016, the percentage of people living in legislative districts without electoral choices has been generally rising over the past several decades.About 4,700 state House and Assembly seats were up for election last year. Of those, 998 Democrats and 963 Republicans won without any opposition from the other major political party. In districts dominated by one party, election battles are fought mostly in the primaries; the winner from the majority party becomes a virtual shoo-in to win the general election.Some states had a particularly high rate of uncompetitive races:—In Georgia, just 31 of the 180 state House districts featured both Republican and Democratic candidates, a nation-high uncontested rate of 83 percent.
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