It seems to me that one of the benefits of being part of the geriatric generation is having the opportunity to look into areas that I wouldn’t have had time to explore back when I was drawing a paycheck instead of a pension. One of these endeavors is trying to be an “informed” voter by examining issues appearing on the ballot – particularly any I figure important but don’t have a clue what they are about. That’s why I decided to spend some of my limited time, energy and abilities to inquiring into Issue 1, a proposed amendment to our state constitution, that is being voted on in the upcoming election. This amendment, if passed, “Creates a bipartisan, public process for drawing congressional districts.”
I must admit that task I have taken on appeared formidable – the text of the proposed amendment is thousands of words long. Yep, although I didn’t do an actual word count, the proposal takes up a couple of pages of an insert to the newspaper. Furthermore, the print is rather small – kinda like that used on warning labels and exceptions to warranties. In addition, probably 60-70 percent of the words are underlined which makes reading even more difficult. However, I found a distance at which my bifocals could handle the print so I plowed ahead.
The first problem I ran into was my limited attention span. The text was so boring and repetitious that my mind tended to wander, but I never was much for legalese and this document is chock-full of that strange language.Then, too, I found many sentences were of extraordinary length with many 100 or so words long – not counting those such as “a”, “and” and “the.” By the time I got to end of these monsters I couldn’t figure out what the original topic was so I had to go back and reread in an attempt to understand the intent – which was not always successful. I’m not sure whether to count that as an attention span problem or my inability to comprehend the English language. Okay, moving on.
The proposal format is filled with “if/then” statements, that is “if” such -and- such happens, “then” so-and-so will be the result. Unfortunately, these “if/then” statements almost always end with the word “except” followed by one or more subparagraphs which specify exceptions to the primary statement. I counted 109 words in the sentence of one such a primary “if/then” statement followed by four subparagraphs of exceptions. I gotta admit this stuff is difficult to follow.
Well, after spending considerable time going over this proposal I didn’t exactly admit defeat, but came mighty close to it. I figured this document must have been written by a covey of otherwise unemployed lawyers who, in addition to charging by the hour, likely got paid by the word with special bonuses for each exception to an “if/then” proposition. My limited ability at reading and understanding English is obviously no match for such an array of legal talent.
Regardless, I think I figured out the underlying concepts. If this proposal is approved, a commission of seven members including the governor, secretary of state, and the state auditor plus four others appointed by the two major political parties will be charged with the responsibility of coming up with a plan for redrawing the map of congressional districts in this state. The purpose is to ensure a more equitable representation of the state’s political affiliation.
The commission will hire a staff to work out a plan which will use whatever number of U S representatives the state has left after the 2020 census to determine the number of congressional districts. The new redistricting plan would become effective with the congressional election of 2022.
The proposal specifies a number of detailed procedures regarding how the congressional district map would be drawn up and the review process, including public meetings. There is even a contingency option if consensus and approval of a plan is not achieved. Overall, the proposal is quite comprehensive.
Well, there you have it – my guestimate of what this proposal is all about. It may not be entirely correct, but I gave it my best shot and I hope it may be helpful to those readers who don’t have either the time or inclination to try to figure it out for themselves. As for those who do give it a try, good luck. You’ll need it! At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.