Letter: Redistricting plan discriminatory

From: Gerald Long


In his column titled “Keep It Simple” published in The Republic on April 14, John Pickerill expresses the opinion that the best solution to questions concerning the redistricting of legislative districts in Indiana would be to have a Statehouse that consists of 92 representatives, one from each of the state’s 92 counties. Unfortunately for Pickerill, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gray v. Sanders (1963), declared that such “county unit systems” are unconstitutional violations of the equal protection of the law clause contained in the 14th Amendment. In this case from over 50 years ago, Justice William O. Douglas stated that the principle of political equality requires adherence to the “one person, one vote” concept.

One year later, in Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Chief Justice Earl Warren asserted that both chambers in a state legislature must consist of districts that are roughly equal in population. In Warren’s own words, “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres.”

How disproportionate would Pickerill’s plan be? Well, Marion County, with more than 900,000 residents, would have no more say in one house of the state legislature as Pickerill’s own Montgomery County, which has fewer than 40,000 inhabitants. A few Indiana counties have fewer than 10,000 residents.

There is also an extremely discriminatory aspect to Pickerill’s plan. The state’s two most heavily populated counties are Marion and Lake. Both of these counties include significant minority communities. The practical effect would be to marginalize the votes of African-Americans and Hispanics.

In conclusion, Pickerill claims that his proposal follows the model of the U.S. Constitution. I suggest that he should carefully read the 14th Amendment before rejecting the suggestion that the redrawing of district lines following the census in 2020 can most fairly be accomplished by a nonpartisan commission.