The Instigator
JBlake
Pro (for)
Winning
20 Points
The Contender
mattrodstrom
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Proposed Redistricting Procedure

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
JBlake
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/13/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,910 times Debate No: 10107
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (3)

 

JBlake

Pro

=======
Introduction
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Common wisdom tells us that competitive congressional districts are better than non-competitive ones. Subscribers to this view often claim that non-competitive districts produce legislators that are inattentive to the needs of their constituency. Gerrymandering has been blamed for the predominance of non-competitive congressional districts in recent decades.
Common wisdom also tells us that gerrymandering is responsible for the dominance of the two party system and the partisan polarization of the past few decades.

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Resolution
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The U.S. should adopt a redistricting policy of gerrymandering to produce non-competitive congressional districts.

***Please take careful note of the definitions before accepting this debate.

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Definitions
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Gerrymandering: a form of redistricting in which district boundaries are drawn in a deliberate electoral manner, usually causing unusual shapes. Common gerrymandering tactics are 'packing' and 'cracking'.

Packing: Placing as many of one type of voter in a district as possible.

Cracking: Spreading out a type of voter in as many districts as possible to deny them a large enough voting bloc in any one district.

Note: Currently, packing and cracking are often used in conjunction to maximize one party's power in a state. For instance, one party has their voters packed into as few districts as possible. The rest of that party's voters are cracked (spread out) into the rest of the districts, where the other party has a large enough majority to win more seats. Here is an illustration:
* 100 voters and 4 districts.
* District 1: 5 Democrats and 20 Republicans
* District 2: 15 Democrats and 10 Republicans
* District 3: 15 Democrats and 10 Republicans
* District 4: 15 Democrats and 10 Republicans
* Result: 1 district for Republicans, 3 for Democrats.

Competitive Districts: Congressional districts in which candidates from both political parties have a viable chance at winning election.

Non-Competitive Districts: Congressional districts in which only candidates from one party have a viable chance at winning election

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Contentions
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I am using this first round as an introduction to the topic and my contentions. I will introduce my contentions in this round and support them in the second round. I urge my opponent to begin his argument in the first round to give him extra space to rebut and build his own case against the resolution.

Contention 1:
1. Packing districts with like-minded voters maximizes voter happiness.

Contention 2:
2. Packing districts with like-minded voters maximizes representation.

Contention 3:
3. Non-competitive districts produce legislators that are more attentive to their constituency than competitive districts.

===========

If there are any questions or concerns, please direct them to the comment section. I can answer them there or amend my first round to clarify.

Thank you.
mattrodstrom

Con

This seems to me to be quite an interesting question, and I thank you for proposing it.

Gerrymandering, as you suggested, is popularly reviled. It immediately strikes one as manipulation of the system to benefit your own positions, and deny others the same opportunity. This is because that is it's exact function.

I take it that in your proposal, in which all districts are gerrymandered in such a way that they are highly partisan, you presume that the benefit to particular positions is negated overall, in that setting up districts in such a partisan manner allows for a fairly appropriate number of each given party get elected to the legislature.

For example in the gerrymandering setup that you gave instead of having the Democrats completely outnumber the republicans (despite their equal numbers) you would rather have it set up without having those "competitive" districts, such that each party is more accurately represented, such that the republicans get two districts, and the democrats get two districts.

I agree that this set-up is preferrable to the example you outlined, and perhaps better than the gerrymandering practices as they happen now, but such a system is still offensive in that it inherently favors certain political positions over others. Namely the ideologies of the two major parties.

It would heighten the partisan nature of representation which the gerrymandering of today already encourages. For in such situations each party could be assured that their candidate would win the district, and so the real contest would take place in the primaries, and being that the party members could be assured that a moderate is not needed to win a more ideologically pure candidate would be favored to win the primary, and would assuredly win the actual seat.

Not only does this type of gerrymandering encourage more partisanship as such, but it essentially disenfranchises many of the 30%(as of October 2009) of Americans who do not claim party affiliation, and have no right to vote in party primaries. And similarly it would make it all the harder for third parties, or any alternative politicians, to have any chance of getting elected.

Now on to your specific contentions.

1. Packing districts with like-minded voters maximizes voter happiness.
- No it doesn't. First off from my understanding of "packing" it doesn't actually mean that the politicians pick people up and move them to another community to "pack" that district. Instead it entails drawing the district such that it is "packed" with those of a given affiliation.
Being that people's "happiness" usually has very little to do with the boundaries of their congressional borders, but rather the kind of community in which they live, and being that "packing" doesn't actually change their community at all, I cannot understand how "packing" districts in such a way could make someone happier.

2. Packing districts with like-minded voters maximizes representation.
-Given only two political ideologies, I agree. However there are not only two given ideologies, but instead millions of people with their own opinions on politics, and many patterns of political thought. What packing districts with like-minded voters really does is dismiss all independant voters, and those of minor parties. Further I would imagine it should also disenfranchise a lot of moderate republicans and democrats, as they would have a lot less say in their own parties. As I outlined above.

3. Non-competitive districts produce legislators that are more attentive to their constituency than competitive districts.
- I suppose by this you mean that such legislators are more in agreement with their constituency, and perhaps more likely to give them goodies on the credit of Uncle Sam. I would suggest that being one with your partisan constituency, is not a good thing for our country, being that heightened partisanship makes for a less fruitful government (with one party overturning the last party's decision), and in the end grossly underrepresenting the large number of moderates and independants.

Instead of attempting to fix the terrible, and inherently unfair, gerrymandering system which we have adopted across our country, I suggest we do away with it. As gerrymandering is in and of itself a manipulation due to self interest, if not of just one of the parties, of the two of their interests at the expense of independants. Instead we ought to place the electoral borders upon natural community borders, and in cases where this practice is insufficient, we also use computer programs to generate sections within those communities which are not based upon ideological boundaries.
Debate Round No. 1
JBlake

Pro

I would like to begin by thanking my opponent for his quick response. I also notice that he is relatively new DDO. Welcome to the community, mattrodstrom. I hope you enjoy your time here.
========

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Affirmative Case
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Contention 1:
1. Packing districts with like-minded voters maximizes voter happiness.

*Note: I apologize for not being entirely clear in my introduction to this contention. By happiness I mean to say happiness toward the system and their representative.*

It should come as no surprise that voters' whose candidate wins election are happier with their representative and look more favorably on the system as a whole than voters' whose candidate lost the election. This has been established by several recent studies.[1]

Competitive districts, then, result in more unhappy constituents than uncompetitive ones. The closer to a 50/50 ratio that a district gets, the greater the number of unhappy constituents. Conversely,the more like-minded voters packed into one district the more happy the constituency.[2]

--------------

Contention 2:
2. Packing districts with like-minded voters maximizes representation.

Another recent study shows that uncompetitive districts outperform competitive districts in representativeness.[3] Wi a little thought on the matter, it is easy to understand why this is so. For the same reason that uncompetitive districts result in a happier constituency, uncompetitive districts also result in more representativeness. Firstly, more voters are likely to hold similar views to that of their legislator. Secondly, there are significantly fewer voters who disagree with the ideology of their legislator. As such, the activity of the legislator is more likely to mirror the activity desired by constituents.

--------------

Contention 3:
3. 3. Non-competitive districts produce legislators that are more attentive to their constituency than competitive districts.

The opposite view, that legislators are more attentive in competitive districts, is based on the idea that inter-party competition forces legislators to pay more attention to the the needs of their constituents. However, uncompetitive districts are not uncompetitive, strictly speaking. Competition shifts from the general to the primary election; from inter-party to intra-party. As we have seen with the sources in contention 2, uncompetitive districts outperform competitive ones in representativeness.

========

My Opponent's concerns:
1. Packing leads to polarization.
2. Packing leads to a dominance of the two-party system.

Rebuttals:
1. Recent studies have shown that gerrymandering actually little to no link with polarization.[4] The claim that gerrymandering is significantly responsible for polarization fails to explain two major facts. First, it does not explain the rise in polarization that has occurred in the U.S. Senate that is not subject to redistricting. Second, it fails to explain past polarized eras when gerrymandering was not common.

2. My opponent has expressed concerns over the dominance of the two-party system. He believes that a system of packing will perpetuate this dominance. However, the procedure being advocated does not preclude consciously redrawing districts to allow for some non-mainstream ideologies to obtain representation. Additionally, the so-called 'big tent' philosophy of the two major parties allows for representation of most ideologies.

1. Anderson, Christopher J. and Andrew J. LoTempio, "Winning, Losing and Political Trust in America" British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32 (2002): 335-351; Clarke, Harold D., and Allan Kornberg, "Do National Elections Affect Perceptions of MP Responsiveness? A Note on the Canadian Case." Legislative Studies Quarterly , Vol. 17 No. 2 (1992): 183-204.
2. Burnell, Thomas L., "Rethinking Redistricting: How Drawing Uncompetitive Districts Eliminates Gerrymanders, Enhances Representation, and Improves Attitudes Toward Congress," PS: Political Science and Politics (January 2006): 77 – 85.
3. Buchler, Justin, "Competition, Representation and Redistricting: The Case against Competitive Congressional Districts" Journal of Theoretical Politics, Vol. 17, No. 4, (2005): 431-463 .
4. McCarty, Nolan, et al. "Does Gerrymandering Cause Polarization?" (February 2006). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com....
mattrodstrom

Con

Thank you for your graciousness.
===========

Rebuttals:

1. I now understand that by "happiness" you mean "happiness toward the system and their representative." And though both of the sources (1 and 2) you provide were rather innacessible, such that I could not research your claim that:

"voters' whose candidate wins election are happier with their representative and look more favorably on the system as a whole than voters' whose candidate lost the election"

I will take it on trust that you did actually read this journal and have drawn accurate information from it. I do however take issue with the idea that peoples "happiness", as you've defined, in regard to their representative and political system is necessarily a good thing.
In equating happiness with how much people favor their representative and political system your claim is almost tautologically true, for in uncompetitive districts the "majority" party get full authority to pick their representative in their primary, and so that majority ought to be content with their pick. Further, it would make sense that that local "majority" would be happy with the system, as it is skewed toward their views.

This "happiness" of your's, or a majority's contentment with being in control, is not however a good thing which ought to be encouraged, or built into a political system. For it also ensures the great "dishappiness" of those of minority views generally as they don't make up majorities anywhere.

What you are proposing is that people ought not get equal votes for their representative, but votes only matter if you're in the local "majority pary". And if your views are not in the majority anywhere, they're not represented in the least.

2. When you get down to it you admit that this contention is essentially the same as contention 1.

"For the same reason that uncompetitive districts result in a happier constituency, uncompetitive districts also result in more representativeness."

And I have essentially the same answer. Uncompetitive districts may best "represent" that local "majority" party, but they grossly underrepresent those minorities, and building the gerrymandering system which you propose into the system would systematically deny those people of minority opinions, around the country, of their right to influence elections, as their views are not necessarily a "majority" anywhere, or at least not in as many places as to fully represent their positions.

3. In your argument for "legislative attentiveness", which is again another way of discussing the above two contentions, you admit that the "competition" in the gerrymandered districts you propose shifts from the regular election, in which all have the right to participate, to the primary, in which only the members of the dominant party have the right to participate.

"Competition shifts from the general to the primary election; from inter-party to intra-party. As we have seen with the sources in contention 2, uncompetitive districts outperform competitive ones in representativeness."
-Includes an admission that the variouscontentions are the same.

Again such a process might "represent", or allow "contentment" for, or best ensure "attentiveness" to that given majority party of the uncompetitive district, but it is unfair. It gives no representation whatsoever to those of minority views. Yes, as I stated in my first argument it perhaps allows an equitable representation between the two "major parties" who are large and organized bodies, but it denies such representation to smaller, geographically spread out parties, and denies representation to all of those independants who don't claim party affiliation, and have no right to vote in primaries.
------

Not only does such a voting system deny smaller "parties" representation, but it denies representation to the people generally. It ensures that your general election vote shall not really count. Only the votes of the party count, and only within their party's nomination process. My opponent admits to this, as I quoted him in the above contention 3.

In our county parties do not and should not have votes, it is people who vote. Our system should not be designed to give the power of representation only to parties, or skew it in their favor, but should be designed to respect each persons vote individually. In the proposed gerrymandering system, as with all gerrymandering systems, the votes of individuals are discounted to the benefit of some, in this case two, part(y/ies).

On my opponents sources:
The first three are apparently inaccessible to myself, and probably to likely voters, though this is really rather irrelevant being that the claims for which my opponent tries to derive credibility for from them are all rather obviously true in definition, though not relevant, being that my argument is not that the majority are not "content/happy" but rather that such a system unfairly chooses who shall be so "content," and grossly underrepresents many people.

The last source, source 4, was accessible, and seemed to be an interesting analysis of polarization trends, but it doesn't refute the fact that gerrymandering, of any stripe, unfairly denies people representaion, and it would seem does not use hard evidence to prove it's analysis, as it uses only computer simulations of non gerrymandered districts, instead of actual ones, which may be different in many kinds of factors, including what kind of politicians decide to run.

My sources:
In fact on the issue of who decides to run in a campaign, Thomas Mann in chapter two of his book Party Lines (published by the Brookings Institute in 2005) addresses this idea in detail and comes to the conclusions that potential candidates, who differ from party ideology, are far less likely to run in uncompetitive districts. I saw no mention of this factor being accounted for in the computer simulations of your source.

Also I'd like to give a source for my figure of last round, that is that as of October 2009 30% of Americans did not declare any party affiliation.
http://www.thewoodlandsteaparty.com...
(The percentages of party affiliation are near the bottom of the article)
Debate Round No. 2
JBlake

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for this informative debate. Good luck in the voting period (but not too much luck).
----------

My opponent's main concerns seem to be as follows:
1. Happiness should not be maximized, because there is still "dishappiness" among the minority views.
2. There will still be a minority of voters who are unhappy and unrepresented.
3. Small, geographically spread out parties are denied representation.
4. He seems to suggest that this system would give more power to party insiders.

Response:
1. Of course there will be "dishappiness" among some with any system. The purpose of this system is to MAXIMIZE the number of people who are happy with their representative and their system of government. The system in its current state would result in more unhappy constituents - as much as 49.9% at the outset. Under the proposed system, those unhappy constituents decrease to around 20% or lower. Short of making every district 100% in favor of one party, there will be some unhappiness. This is inevitable and unavoidable. The goal, as I mentioned in the past round, is to maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness. The proposed system reaches this goal.

2. As I mentioned in point one, it is inevitable that some unhappy and unrepresented citizens will remain. The goal of reforming the system is the minimize both of these. As I have already shown in round two, the proposed system maximizes happiness, representativeness, and attentiveness.

3. Small parties are not necessarily precluded from such a system. As I mentioned, districts can be drawn to include them. However, Con is correct in saying that geographically spread out ideologies are at a disadvantage and do not receive as many benefits as more mainstream ones. I would like to point out that under the current system, they receive no benefits. In the proposed system, at least, there will be SOME improvements.

Additionally, if the law were changed regarding redistricting to allow drawing districts that are not connected, then this would no longer be a concern.

Finally, I would like to bring attention to the reader that Con failed to address the 'big tent' philosophy of the two major parties. There is room in each of them for such a wide variety of ideologies. Only the most extreme and radical are generally not welcome - and those typically do not have enough support to earn a representative anyway (I am talking in numbers here). The two parties include ideologies from Democratic Socialists on the left all the way to libertarians on the right.

4. I am not quite certain where Con picked up the idea that party insiders, or the party elites would gain any extra power over the nominating process. He suggests that the increased importance of the primary at the expense of the general election is the cause. How this gives them more power is not explained. With the rise of primary elections, party elites have lost most of their control. Anyone with enough signatures can get on the ballot for any party. Then it is up to the people to determine who they want as their representative. Basically, the amount of power that party elites have over the nominating process will be the same as in the current system. Con has offered nothing to sugest otherwise.

*#*#* Con's main concern seems to be that this system still results in a minority of people going unrepresented. I feel it is important to once again emphasize that there will always be some people unrepresented. Competitive districts perform worse in this category. Uncompetitive (packed) districts, minimize those unrepresented better than the current or any other proposed system.

Con seems to have missed this point in his response. He is worried about people going unrepresented, yet he strictly opposes a system that significantly decreases the number of people who go unrepresented.

=========

My Source:
First let me note that all of my sources (except for Buchler) are indeed available free of charge on the internet. I guess Con just didn't have the time to search for them. They can be accessed by googling the article title:
(Burnell - http://journals.cambridge.org...)
(Anderson and LoTempio - http://journals.cambridge.org...)
(Buchler - http://politicalscience.case.edu...)

Con questioned the usefulness of the McCarty study. McCarty, et al. did indeed use simulations under different scenarios. What he seems to have missed is that they compared their simulations to the current state of affairs. What they found was that gerrymandering has such a tiny influence on polarization as to be negligible. In short, polarization is not a concern. I would like to also note that Con did not explain that polarization in the ungerrymanderable Senate, nor did he explain the polarization in past eras when gerrymandering was not common.

His sources, with which he is attempting to make a point:
1. 30% of Americans are independent.
I would tend to think that the majority of this 30% are independent because they agree with some points of both mainstream parties - not because they represent some huge unrepresented minority. In a sense, they are both Democrats and Republicans.
The rest of that 30% have views that are likely consistent with of the smaller third parties. They could join forces with those parties to bolster their numbers.

2. It is unfortunate that Con has seen fit to post a source that s inaccessible to me or the reader, short of purchasing the book outright. He could have outlined Dr. Mann's points and evidence, but he did not do so. Obviously doing so in the final round will not help either, since I will not have the opportunity to analyze the argument and respond.

=========
CONCLUSION
=========

This debate has shown how the proposed system maximizes voter happiness, representativeness, and legislator attentiveness. It has further shown that polarization is not a concern. Finally, it shows that small parties will have the opportunity to receive at least some benefits, compared to the zero benefits they receive in the current system.

Con has failed to provide any valid reason why this system is not superior to the current system. He has also failed to introduce any other system that might outperform he proposed system. In fact, he agrees that voter happiness and representativeness are important factors to our system of government. Despite this, he opposes a system that increases voter happiness and representativeness.

I would like to close by thanking my opponent for a worthy debate.
mattrodstrom

Con

Being that my opponent allowed me to begin the arguments in this debate, I shall allow him to end them.

I wish only to point out that chapter two of the book Party Lines by Thomas Mann, is also available via a google search, specifically a google "books" search.

JBlake, I thank you for an engaging debate.

To all potential voters: Read our arguments, think about what constitutes "the good" for our country, as this is what we were arguing over, and Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by JBlake 5 years ago
JBlake
:)

As you can tell, my research into the subject changed.
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
I just found an awesome source I should have used. lol

http://ddofans.com...
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
Good job Jblake :)
Posted by JBlake 5 years ago
JBlake
Not at all. They must still answer to the people in the primary election.
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
Having the Senate elected by the HoR, or by state legislators (which is how it was originally), then that makes Senators beholden to the HoR or the state legislatures, not the people.

I see that.
Do you see how your proposed system would make the legislators more beholden to the major parties rather than the people?? lol :)
Posted by JBlake 5 years ago
JBlake
It is the House of Representatives that is subject to the rapid shifts in public passions. The Senate is less susceptible because it has staggered elections. Everyone in the HoR is up for election every two years.

Having the Senate elected by the HoR, or by state legislators (which is how it was originally), then that makes Senators beholden to the HoR or the state legislatures, not the people.
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
The proposed system is less susceptible to rapid shifts in public passions.

I think a better way of doing that is having the senate set up as it originally was, having senators elected from the reps.
Posted by JBlake 5 years ago
JBlake
Each of those concerns were indirectly addressed by the very nature of the proposition. Since I think this is an interesting topic, I don't mind extending debate into the comment section just for fun. I'll respond to each for fun:

1. These two types of systems naturally collide. They cannot coexist. I sought to prove that the proposed system gave increased happiness and representation than a system where the borders were drawn along natural communities. This I will address in part two of your concern.

2. I answered this concern very well, I feel. I pointed out that while there will indeed still be a minority of people unrepresented, these minorities make up FEWER people. A minority is unavoidable, but the proposed system minimizes the minority. It creates boundaries where fewer people go unrepresented. The proposed system could create minorities of 10 - 20%. Whereas drawing districts along natural community borders or drawing competitive districts creates minorities as much as 40 - 49%. The logical conclusion here is that the proposed system is better in this regard.

3. This is generally the same as number two.

One final point that I meant to mention in the debate but forgot get to (which anyone may address, just for fun): The proposed system is less susceptible to rapid shifts in public passions.
Posted by mattrodstrom 5 years ago
mattrodstrom
Lwerd, thanks for your welome to the site.

Though I agree that I perhaps did not delve to great depths in the issues you presented, I certainly did address them, and I thought that JBlake did not powerfully refute my objections. Being that Jblake had the burden of proof, I thought this ought to be sufficient on my end of the arguments.

Though I thought JBlake was quite well put together on the issues, and was certainly more prepared on the research end, though I don't think he really put my objections to rest.

1. "Instead we ought to place the electoral borders upon natural community borders, and in cases where this practice is insufficient, we also use computer programs to generate sections within those communities which are not based upon ideological boundaries."

2. "(I)t would make sense that that local "majority" would be happy with the system, as it is skewed toward their views.This "happiness" of your's, or a majority's contentment with being in control, is not however a good thing which ought to be encouraged, or built into a political system. For it also ensures the great "dishappiness" of those of minority views generally as they don't make up majorities anywhere."

3. "Uncompetitive districts may best "represent" that local "majority" party, but they grossly underrepresent those minorities, and building the gerrymandering system which you propose into the system would systematically deny those people of minority opinions, around the country, of their right to influence elections, as their views are not necessarily a "majority" anywhere, or at least not in as many places as to fully represent their positions."

It would have been interesting if they had to duke it out, but I guess Con gave up in the last round...?

As I said in the debate, he allowed me to begin the arguments, I figured it would only be fair to let him end them. (plus, it was a friends B-day, I was bus
Posted by Danielle 5 years ago
Danielle
I gave a few points the vote of a TIE (like spelling and grammar, who I agreed with before the debate, etc) and the rest to JBlake.

A few reasons:

1. While JBlake's proposal might not be the best one, it's still better than what's currently being done. Con failed to argue that point or make a better proposal.

2. In the last round, JBlake said that the goal of this whole thing was to maximize voter happiness. However, just because that was one of his contentions doesn't mean that it's the value of this entire debate. This would have been a strong point for the Con, but Con failed to make it. I can only vote based on what was presented :)

3. Pro's arguments did address polarization, and Con didn't even try refuting the affects that Pro's proposal would have on the smaller, under-repreresented parties. It would have been interesting if they had to duke it out, but I guess Con gave up in the last round...?

Nevertheless, it was a really good debate (and a new topic for a change - I like!) and I'd also like to welcome Matt to the site. Good job, guys.
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Vote Placed by Vi_Veri 5 years ago
Vi_Veri
JBlakemattrodstromTied
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Vote Placed by Danielle 5 years ago
Danielle
JBlakemattrodstromTied
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Vote Placed by JBlake 5 years ago
JBlake
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