Wake up and smell the fish
Elections are fast upon us, and one of the biggest topics for discussion around town is something everyone should have noticed last winter.
Much as you might want to think about which county commission candidate you want to vote for, there’s a good chance you’re not in that candidate’s district.
Last winter, when no one was thinking about elections, county commissioners redrew district boundaries in the most bizarre way possible, leaving the northern part of the city of Marion as an island, surrounded for miles in every direction by another district. North Marion is now a disembodied piece of the far northern district of commissioner Dianne Novak.
The gerrymandered redistricting was actually a pretty slick move by Novak, who appeared to be the only county official presenting a reapportionment plan. Alternatives prepared by others, including this newspaper and Marion’s city administrator, apparently never were considered by commissioners.
Why was Novak’s plan so successful? Because it represented the only way in which the county could be divided so that both she and commissioner Kent Becker, who lives not far from her in a sparsely populated portion of the county, would not be thrust into the same district.
The plan also helped guarantee that a disproportionately large number of districts would be dominated by rural rather than urban areas.
It should have been challenged at the time and almost without doubt would have been regarded as fishy if it had been, but no one took up the issue. As a result, Marion, with the second largest population in the county, is almost assured of never having one of its residents representing its interests on the county commission.
The county will need to be redistricted again after the 2020 census, but commissioners from the new gerrymandered districts will be in charge of that process, meaning that reapportionment will just as likely be just as unfair.
We hate to say it, but this is what happens when citizens don’t stand up for their rights and instead let the loudest voices determine what government does.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified Sept. 19, 2019