More Than One Way To Split A District

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In my home state of Michigan, those of us from the southern part of the state joke that in the upper peninsula even the trees get to vote.

It's based on the fact that northern Michigan, where few people live, always seems over-represented in the state legislature.

Flip the north with the south and something similar is coming to a head in Gila County. Ever since I've been up here, I've heard grumblings about how Globe is giving the North short shrift.

According to the dictionary, to get short-shrifted is to be treated unsympathetically. But to get the full impact, you have to take a closer look.

"Shrift," the dictionary says, has to do with the archaic act of "shriving" which sounds most unpleasantly unsympathetic. And its polar opposite, being long-shrifted, doesn't seem like a very palatable alternative. Suffice it to say that we in northern Gila County have been feeling put upon by those in southern Gila County for some time.

It has to do with the county seat being down there, and us having to drive all that distance for jury duty and other county stuff.

It has to do with southern and northern Gila County not having much in common.

It has to do with the fact that while southern Gila County has been shriveling up, the north is booming.

It has to do with the belief held by many northerners that the supervisor districts have long been gerrymandered to, in effect, give the south two votes to our one.

Anyway, along comes the 2000 Census, proving just how numerous we northerners have become a situation that by law must be rectified through a process known as redistricting. A redistricting committee was appointed by the supervisors to consider options and recommend a final plan for evening things up.

Enter Payson Mayor Ray Schum, who has come up with a plan that he says is the only one that gives the north a chance of gaining a second supervisor. Unfortunately, according to Tony Sissons a redistricting expert the county hired to assist with the process the mayor's plan does not maintain minority voting strength as well as the two competing plans.

In other words, even though Schum's plan seems the fairest in terms of equalizing district populations, Hispanics and Native Americans don't fare as well in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Justice, which must approve whichever plan the supervisors select.

Complicated enough. But, at the last minute after the committee said it had chosen its three finalists a fourth plan was put on the table.

If the committee is willing to look at additional plans even after it has locked up and gone home for the decade, then I would like to submit the following plans for their consideration, each of which uses the minority quota issue to our advantage:

Plan 5 Under this plan, one district is made up entirely of people who don't like the ducks and geese at Green Valley Park, including the lady who wrote the letter to the editor pretty much saying geese are agents of the devil. Waterfowl would, of course, be banned from this district.

Plan 6 Under this plan, Tyler Parkway and the Payson Event Center are gerrymandered into a single district where the speed limit is 25 mph, and the district motto is, "Get a horse."

Plan 7 Under this plan, all the people who wear Payson Concrete & Materials caps would be placed in a district of their own and not allowed to vote.

Plan 8 Under this plan, all members of the Citizens Awareness Committee are put in one district, developers and realtors in a second, and you and me, John Q. Normal people, in a third buffer district that forever keeps the other two apart. It's a tactic we'll affectionately call Rubymandering.

Plan 9 Under this plan, all country music lovers are placed in one district located far enough from the civilized world that the rest of us can't hear that infernal whining claptrap.

Plan 10 Under this plan, all Elks who bowl are placed in a special district. (I have just started bowling in a local league where several teams are made up of Elks who appear perfectly normal until they start bowling and then they become maniacal fanatics and beat the living heck out of us. Shades of "The Big Lebowski.")

So you see, Mayor Schum, while your plan to give northern Gila County two supervisors probably won't see the light of day down in Globe, things could be worse.

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