A recent letter entitled “Democracy” by Martha Starkey contains some of the most misguided and factually incorrect statements on redistricting ever written. If her comments are representative of the knowledge of the population at large, it is quite easy to see why Obama won the 2012 election.
The first outrageous suggestion made by Mrs. Starkey is that many states, including Ohio, are “. . . moving the majority of voters into one or two districts and spreading the rest of the voters in districts throughout the state. . .” This claim is completely false.
Any redistricting plan can eventually come under the scrutiny of the courts. The Supreme Court in Baker v. Carr (1962) ruled that state congressional districts of unequal size were unconstitutional. It is ridiculous to believe that any state government would pack a majority, defined as fifty percent plus one, of voters into a single district. Such a deliberate plan would clearly violate the Baker decision and would be tossed by the courts immediately. Perhaps Mrs. Starkey is simply unaware of the mathematical definition of “majority”? Districts can vary considerably in terms of geographical size, but the fact remains that they must be relatively equal in terms of population.
The second ridiculous suggestion is that somehow this is a new tool or trick discovered and used by the Republican Party. Mrs. Starkey states: “These steps to disenfranchise voters are NOT being done by the President or even by the liberal Democrats, but by Republican state governments.” It is not my purpose to discuss the political ethics of gerrymandering, but nevertheless, it has been a tool in use for centuries by both political parties. The term gerrymandering was named after a Democrat, Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Furthermore, when any thinking person revisits the true history of gerrymandering, they will see several clear facts: for nearly a century after the Civil War, Democrats in the South used this tactic to purposely disenfranchise African American voters and maintain their stranglehold on power, both at the federal and state levels. As African Americans were brought more fully into the political system by numerous court decisions, Democrats still utilized this procedure to maintain their stranglehold on power in the House of Representatives. This would not be broken until the 1994 midterm congressional elections. Perhaps Mrs. Starkey should revisit and comment upon that truly sad and despicable history.
Dr. Kevin R. Spiker, Ph.D.