Opinions on State Election Redistricting

Sussex County Online User Forums: Sussex County Delaware Discussion Forum: Opinions on State Election Redistricting
By Eric Magill on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - 04:06 pm:

With the 2002 Elections 10 months away, state lawmakers continue to debate how to redistrict the state following the 2000 Census. Which redistricting plan do you favor? Do you favor increasing the state House of Representatives from 41 to 45 seats? Voice your opinions here.

By M.Opaliski on Wednesday, January 30, 2002 - 02:43 pm:

I do not favor increasing the the number of legislators in the General Assembly, there is no good reason to do so. None at all. The responsibility for the redistricting should be taken from the General Assembly and placed with non partisan organization because obviosly where the responsibility lies now, the result is a failure. Without much concern for meeting the prescribed deadlines as dictated in State Law, the General Assembly is now looking, admittedly, to take this issue to the courts. It is interesting to note that the legislators are paid a salary by the state to do a job, in this particular case itâs a once every ten year job. If (when) this goes to court the state will pay for that too, in the form of court costs and attorneys fees. State funds to pay for state attorneys hired by state legislators to settle in a state court a state matter that the state legislators were being paid to settle to begin with. That particular model doesnât fit my idea of acceptable representation, nor will it ever. Regardless of what House, upper or lower, passed their plan or when is irrelevant. The fact is the entire General Assembly failed. And, I'll add to that that with the fact that the Governor failed to act on this matter as well. The Governor has Constitutional Authority to compell the General Assembly to convene and put a Bill on her desk, she didn't. Rather, she stated that she would like the legislators to work it out ... I have a news flash for the Governor ... it's not working out.

Seeing as how Rep. Ewing is the only legislator talking about this at length in the papers let's look at some of his comments. Rep. Ewing offered some valid points on the amount of growth that Delaware has seen over the past ten years, both statewide and particularly specific to Sussex County. However, based on averages, the way that the numbers work out still doesnât seem to meet the requirements as called for under Article II, Section 2A of the Delaware State Constitution, which spells out the guidelines for additional seats. If the average constituency of the current 45-seat proposal is 17,413 as suggested, that is approximately 5,088 constituents below the minimum number of 22,501 constituents that are called for in Section 2A that would warrant the addition of seats to the State House of Representatives. On the other hand, if the number of seats was to remain at 41, using those same figures the average constituency would be 19,112 which is still 3,389 constituents below the minimum of 22,501 as called for in Section 2A. Granted, Article II, Section 2A of the Delaware Constitution is not based on averages but on actual population. However, the representative districts are intended to be as equal in population as possible according to Title 29, Section 804 of the Delaware Code so it is feasible in this discussion to base the needs as per Section 2A on the district averages provided by Rep. Ewing.

My views are based on what is mandated by the Delaware Constitution as well as personal experience as a resident of Delaware. Partly, I have to look at the monies involved because itâs certainly an issue to consider with the added salaries, added general office expenses and the biggest part being the street funds allotted to each legislator. However, money is not my only concern because if the added seats were in fact justified I wouldnât mention the funds needed to sustain them. The main reason that I oppose adding the seats is directly related to, but directly opposite the claim being made by those who want to add the seats. That is, they want to add seats so they would be better able to represent their constituents. That claim, although on itâs face appears to have merit, the simple fact on the matter is that 8 out of 10 Delawareans cannot even name their State Representative, nor can they name their Senator. In reality they just donât seem to care, so aside from the regularly scheduled duties in Dover, the committee meetings if so applicable and being there for the community, the 20% (+/-) that might actually contact their Rep on an issue ... if a State Representative still feels that they are unable to meet the demand perhaps they should consider not filing for re-election.

I am all for a representative form of government that is for the people above all else, that is the vision of a Republican form of Government, I simply donât see the adding of seats at this time as a way of achieving and or maintaining that goal. Looking back at the last two elections in Delaware, where all 41 of the State Representative district seats were available, the results are a reflection of the amount of interest of the residents in this state and the matters that effect them. In the 1998 election, 22 of the 41 Representative district seats were uncontested and in 2000 it was slightly lower at 17 of the 41 going uncontested. While this lack of interest in State Government is great news for the incumbents in those districts that go uncontested, it doesnât say much for the need to add more seats due to the publicâs interest in itâs representation.

By Samuel L. Guy, Esq. on Thursday, February 21, 2002 - 12:46 am:

Representative Ewing did not include a discussion of the Voting Rights Act in his Redistricting article. I know that people of all races, creeds, colors, and genders generally believe in fairness and justice. The problem is that the people who are leaders often do not include justice and fairness as important qualities when they act on behalf of the people. Fairness and justice is reserved for some of the people. I want to ask my fellow Delawareans what you think about this scenario.

Delaware has 783,585 residents. Almost twenty percent(20%) of the population is black. Assume a marble is placed in a barrel representing every citizen. When we reach into the barrel and randomly pulled out 21 Senate marbles we would expect 4 of the marbles to be black. If at the same time we picked 41 House marbles, we would expect 8 to be black. In total, we would expect 12 black elected officials in Dover.

I am not advocating racial quotas, but I am pointing out that there is some thing about our society that consistently results in only 4 black elected officials in the Delaware General Assembly instead of 12. There is only 1 black Senator and 3 black Representatives.

If this were some type of lottery game, we would all agree it is rigged against black marbles being pulled from the barrel. We might disagree on how and why but nobody would bet their money on black marbles being pulled out of the barrel.

Because the dice were known to be rigged throughout the land, the United State Congress passed a law called the Voting Rights Act. Without getting into a lot of legal details, the law as applied prohibits redistricting and other election related activities from being carried out in a manner that results in racial discrimination.

There are parts of Delaware where due to segregated housing pattens, there are high concentrations of white residents. In some of those areas Senate and House districts are created with a population that is comprised of 70 to 80% white residents.

Similarly, there are ares of Delaware with high concentrations of black residents where Senate and House districts could be created comprised of 70 to 80% black residents.

In the areas with high concentrations of black residents, white leaders use redistricting to break up the black population in to small parts. They do this because they do not want black voters to be able to elect candidates of their choice on election day. The Voting Rights Act prohibits this.

For example, in New Castle County there is an area where the contiguous black and hispanic population is so large and the housing patterns so segregated that 2 Senate Districts and 4 Representative Districts can easily be created. In this area about 20% of the residents are white out of a total population of 77,000 people. The racial composition of this area is the same whether Delaware has 41 or 45 House seats.

Do Sussex County's fair and decent citizens support Representative Ewing's position in favor of a Redistricting plan that misreats people of color? In Sussex County there ia a section where a State Representative District can be drawn that is approximately 40% black. In Dover a 50% black district can be created and in Bear a 40% black district can be created.

One day black residents of Delaware will not be cheated through the Redistricting process. Hopefully, we all look forward to the day when you reach into the barrel and the selection process has not been rigged through Redistricting. Until that day comes I will have to educate all of Delaware's residents about the process. We must face the facts. There are some people who want things to remain unjust and unfair.

I realize that some of you will say 'I do not want to hear about that racial stuff' and 'Here we go again.' I also know that most people can count. The facts are the facts. My question to each of you is what is your position? I do not care about your thoughts on the messenger. What are your thoughts on the issue? Your most private thoughts say a lot about you and about the future of Delaware and the United States.

By M.Opaliski on Thursday, February 21, 2002 - 10:49 am:

Mr. Guy, thanks for taking the time offer your thoughts on this matter. Any discussion on State Politics, and specifically, the redistricting issue is certainly welcomeed by myself. As you can see there is an overwhelming lack of interest in the topic as is reflected by the number of responses.

Having said that, it is my opinion that your logic is flawed. Here is why, we do not reach into a barrel to select legislators, citizens must decide for themselves to run for office. If there is in your view a lack of Black legislators, there can be only one reason, that is, Black Delawareans are not filling for candidacy and therefore cannot be elected to office in the General Assembly.

As I said above, the number of seats that have gone uncontested in the past two elections is evidence enough for me that if a black marble is unwilling to leave the barrel, it's not going to.

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