LETTER: Gerrymandering needs to stop

To the editor:

Robert Lee expressed understandable frustration on September 17 at a system that has resulted in Congressional rule by roughly 545 ‘dictators.’ He prescribes term limits, but I’m skeptical; that can sometimes rob us of sound leadership. Let’s explore further.

In an especially crucial election year, 2010 saw a puny 37 percent turnout of eligible citizens. With that year’s ‘Citizens United’ court decision opening donation geysers, freshman Republican lawmakers took control of key state legislatures and drew new congressional districts nationwide, as mandated by our constitution.

Further, utilizing improved data technology and creative artistry, those legislatures gerrymandered enough districts to place the U.S. House safely in GOP hands for this decade. Put another way: in 2012, 51 percent of Tar Heel votes for U.S. House candidates, statewide, went to Democrats resulting, oddly, in nine Republicans and four Democrats. Nationwide, 1.4 million more votes went to Democrats but the House saw a 234-201 GOP split.

With all of those ‘safe’ seats, GOP members are only vulnerable to primary challenges and fewer voters. Merely concerned with a few activist voters back home, House majority members perceived little fear of government shutdowns and could, for instance, ignore a sound and potentially effective 2013 immigration bill — approved by the Senate with a strong bi-partisan majority — for fear of President Obama receiving some credit.

Certainly Democrats have taken advantage of census-year majorities to protect their nests, as well. But lawsuits followed 2010’s redistricting.

Florida’s legislature, for example, ignored voter-approved amendments to their state constitution mandating a more independent redistricting process. New court-approved maps resulted.

Before Mr. Lee strikes Sen. Chuck Schumer with that ham, he might thank Schumer for joining him in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, then devote some column space to the need for fairer congressional district creation.

Douglas Smith


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