COLUMBIA, 8/21/11 (Beat Byte) -- Ward Reapportionment Plan D could so dilute minority voting in Columbia's First Ward that it might violate an important Civil Rights law. The plan also represents the "classic definition of gerrymandering."
So said former Columbia School Board president Michelle Gadbois (left) in a powerfully-worded July 28, 2011 letter to the city's Ward Reapportionment Committee (WRC), to which she belongs.
Asked by WRC chairman Bob Pugh to explain her earlier comments about the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Gadbois reiterated her concerns about potential violations of the Federal law, should WRC members vote for Ward redistricting plans that in any way gerrymander political districts or dilute minority votes.
"I do not want to divide Columbia's citizenry for the next decade along
lines of lingering resentments from our work."
In Committee deliberations, the Voting Rights Act should be "rigorously considered," Gadbois wrote. By adding large numbers of white voters from high-turnout precincts in Wards Three and Four to the First Ward, plans presently under committee consideration could minimize minority participation in the electoral process, Gadbois argued.
She also cautioned against "manipulation of the redistricting process for any political or partisan outcome," an express violation of the Voting Rights Act. Citizens first started worrying about such manipulation when WRC member Rob Monsees introduced Plan D, which would stuff Columbia's most politically-liberal neighborhoods into a single Ward.
"This is the classic definition of gerrymandering."
Once Deputy Chief of Staff for Republican Governor Matt Blunt, Monsees made #9 on a top ten list of things Democrats supposedly "hated" about the former governor. Liberal pundits likewise labeled Blunt's controversial MOHELA state student loan program "Monsees' Millions."
"By grouping precincts that traditionally vote Democratic into a single Ward -- Ward 1 -- and thereby undermining the competitive political balance in every other Ward, we are determining the political makeup of the [Columbia City] Council for the next 10 years," Gadbois continued. "This is the classic definition of gerrymandering."
Should WRC and City Council members approve such a redistricting plan, it could be challenged in court "without having to prove discriminatory grounds," Gadbois concluded. "I do not want to divide Columbia's citizenry for the next decade along lines of lingering resentments resulting from our work," she wrote. "Doing so could be potentially damaging to the welfare of Columbia."
READ GADBOIS' LETTER ON PAGE 2 HERE: