One man equals one vote

December 6, 2018

The letters to the editor of any newspaper will generally reflect the education and knowledge of its readers more than any other one measurement. I seldom comment about opinion pieces of any sort, but the letter from Michaela Rickard in the Nov. 27 issue demonstrates an incredible dearth of historical and political education. Reading it left me literally speechless, but it demands an answer.

Ms. Rickard needs to do some reading, first of all. Note that I don’t use the phrase “catch up,” because it’s obvious that a few basic principles of American government and political history have totally escaped her.

Ever since the Civil War, the general principle of elections has been the “one man, one vote” rule. Over the decades, court rulings made this clearer and clearer, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Baker v. Carr in 1962. States were ordered to use the population statistics of each decennial census to establish voting districts arranged according to population. Although problems with gerrymandering and other schemes have sometimes popped up, the standards established in Baker v. Carr have been used 16 times to set up equal voting districts.

In Oregon, the populations of the 36 counties to which Ms. Rickard refers have absolutely nothing to do with voting districts in state elections. The state has 30 state senate districts and 60 state house of representatives districts, the borders of which pay no attention to the borders of the 36 counties. Ms. Rickard has come up with some interesting statistics about which counties elected Kate Brown, but they are totally irrelevant.

The nineteen least-populated counties in the state, with their total of 352,155 Oregonians, could easily be out-numbered by Lane County alone and its 365,940 residents. So could Clackamas County’s 404,980, Washington County’s 583,595, or Multnomah County’s 790,670 (all statistics from the 2016 Oregon Blue Book).

Ms. Rickard’s county-voting scheme is ludicrous. With each county receiving one vote, the counties east of the Cascades with their large numbers of prairie dogs but small numbers of human beings would out-weigh the numbers of people in the western counties. An idea good for a few laughs, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Steve Wicker


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