LETTER: Reapportioning our state correctly has been a longtime goal
Author: - November 26, 2013 - Updated: November 26, 2013
It has been a long time that I have been reading The Statesman. I’m looking forward to seeing my birthday mentioned in one of the regular lists next month because it will be my 80th. Sort of a personal goal, eh? If nothing else, it says that I’ve gone past the political starting gate without ever getting in the race.
I’ve included a letter to the editor which I submitted to the local paper. It probably will not pass their 300 word limit. I wish the information could get statewide coverage because current politics seems so detached from history whilst claiming to be rooted in custom and common sense. It is heartbreaking to me to be unable to feel any measure of respect for so many important political figures who tout reapportioning a house of the legislature to represent jack rabbits and marmots. As boy and young man, I respected and listened to men and women from “both” sides in political debates. I am distressed by my loss of respect for one side because I have to question if it is due simply to my advanced age or a real change in the social, political economy.
May I wish you a happy, fulfilling holiday season, and may The Statesman continue to produce “hard paper copy” for years and years to satisfy lovers of anachronisms — like bicameral legislatures. Remember, the state needs to suffer a bit — it needs to have a constitutional convention. Anyone who loves the state knows its constitution needs the most radical surgery — no more band-aids by initiative or referendum. Get everyone into the act and let the political blood flow freely.
My most kind regards,
James D. “Bald Jim” Parmenter
Reynolds v. Sims, 1964 (selected quotes)
Chief Justice Warren delivered the opinion of the Court.
“Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests. As long as ours is a representative form of government, the right to elect legislators in a free and unimpaired fashion is a bedrock of our political system. It could hardly be gainsaid that a constitutional claim had been asserted by an allegation that certain otherwise qualified voters had been entirely prohibited from voting for members of their state legislature. And, if a State should provide that the votes of citizens in one part of the State should be given two times, or five times, or 10 times the weight of votes of citizens in another part of the State, it could hardly be contended that the right to vote of those residing in the disfavored areas had not been effectively diluted. Of course, the effect of state legislative districting schemes which give the same number of representatives to unequal numbers of constituents is identical. Weighting the votes of citizens differently, by any method or means, merely because of where they happen to reside, hardly seems justifiable.
We are told that the matter of apportioning representation in a state legislature is a complex and many faceted one. We are advised that States can rationally consider factors other than populations. We are admonished not to restrict the power of the States to impose differing views as to political philosophy on their citizens. We are cautioned about the dangers of entering into political thickets and mathematical quagmires. Our answer is this: a denial of constitutionally protected rights demands judicial protection; our oath and our office require no less of us. To the extent that a citizen’s right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen. The weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives. Population is, of necessity, the starting point for consideration and the controlling criterion for judgment in legislative apportionment controversies. A citizen, a qualified voter, is no more nor no less so because he lives in the city or on the farm. This is the clear and strong command of our Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. This is at the heart of Lincoln’s vision of ‘government of the people, by the people… for the people.’ We hold that, as a basic constitutional standard, the Equal Protection Clause requires that the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis. Simply stated, an individual’s right to vote for state legislators is unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a substantial fashion diluted when compared with votes of citizens living in other parts of the state.” (Emphasis supplied).
I support the concept that young people should be introduced to the provisions of the Constitution as part of their high school education. One hopes time might be found in such classes to consider Reynolds v. Sims. Perhaps a large number of Colorado’s elected local government officials could benefit from a similar exposure.