Thoughts On The County Commission And Redistricting – The Chattanoogan

So they say it’s time for redistricting.  ‘Redistricting’ means carving up Hamilton County into nine sections of approximately equal population, right?  And, as always, we’re promised fairness in the process.  But ‘equal’ is supposedly subject to topography and other unavoidable factors, and it’s definitely subject to political whim.  And ‘fairness’ is a very flexible term whose definition always lies in the eyes of the definer; again, politics rears its ever-ugly head.

In this age of instant communication, abundant demographic information, and computer speed and accuracy, and in the name of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness,’ Hamilton County could be redistricted absolutely equally and fairly in one week or less.  One person working with available data in a small locked room could do this with absolute impartiality.  The process goes like this —  using simple geometry, no squiggly lines at all:

First, using two long straight East – West lines from border to border, divide the county into three areas of equal population — North, Middle, and South.

Then using shorter straight North – South lines, divide each of those three areas into three smaller sections of equal population – West, Middle, and East.  That produces nine districts of equal population:  Northwest, North central, Northeast; West central, Central, East central; Southwest, South central, Southeast.  Population variation between districts will be essentially nil, and there’s no gerrymandering whatsoever.  Other than along the county borders, every line is absolutely straight and aligned with the four cardinal directions.  Topography plays no part; ethnicity plays no part; politics plays no part.  

Yes, of course, those new dividing lines might pass through some houses.  But there is local precedent to follow there:  Where is the front door?  Let the front door be the defining location of the building, and let it determine which side of the line(s) the house is on.

Yes, of course, the two original lines could be North – South, and the shorter internal lines could be East – West.  One or the other method might offer some perceived political advantage to one party or the other.  In fact, compute the districts both ways, then let the Commissioners vote on which of the two equally impartial schemes they prefer. 

Don’t argue that the results will be inconvenient for some voters.  If voting were convenient now, everybody would do it!  And those who are in the habit of voting will continue to vote even if it is a bit inconvenient, as long as it’s fair and equitable. 

One statement in the original article confused me:  ” …  over 40,000 residents is too many to keep up with for a single commissioner.”  Huh?  As far as I know, the only thing anyone in local government wants from me is (a) property taxes, and (b) votes.  There’s no ‘keeping up with’ ordinary residents other than on paper and in computer files, and I doubt the individual commissioners do any of that work themselves.  So ‘keeping up with residents’ is not a convincing reason to double the size of the County Commission.

Besides, why on Earth suggest 18 of them?  An even number might seem reasonable, but obviously leads to equal votes on both sides of any question.  At least keep it an odd number of commissioners, to minimize tied votes.

Then there’s the elephant in the room; excuse me, that’s a bad way to express it.  For some asinine reason our local elections are claimed to be ‘non-partisan.’  The best I can figure it, that really means ‘Let’s don’t let the voters know which side we’re on until we’re elected.’  We don’t know how many elephants and how many donkeys will be in the room (on the County Commission, for instance) until we’ve elected them.  That ain’t right!  The only ones who benefit from the ‘non-partisan’ election business are those who want the power but have to hide their affiliation in order to get the power.

So give us obviously partisan elections; require each candidate to declare his/her political affiliation every time he/she asks for votes.

And in the meantime, eliminate gerrymandering while you’re at it.  Let the electronic computers do the redistricting quickly and precisely so it’s really fair and square, rather than making it the usual political affair with all of those weird squiggly boundaries.

Larry Cloud 

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