The test of fairness

July 25, 1991

The city redistricting plan got its day in court, so to speak, albeit a short day. With respectful consideration and little fanfare, Judge J. Frederick Motz threw out the challenge to the new districting plan brought by Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont, a longtime Republican office-seeker, and Aaron K. Wilkes, a black college student.

Pierpont and Wilkes rested their case upon the speculative theory that the redistricting plan stands to reduce black representation on the City Council from the present seven to a future six. As we said in this space on Monday, this is a distinct possibility. Nevertheless, the fact remains that statistically, at least, the plan creates five black-majority districts and one white-majority district. So theoretically, the makeup of the next City Council could be 15 black members and three white members. Judge Motz had to deal in real numbers, not fanciful speculation, so he had little choice but to throw out the suit.

It would have been interesting to see how the judge might have ruled if the suit had alleged that the redistricting plan stood to reduce white representation to 16 percent of the council seats in a city whose population is 40 percent white. We suspect that, given the uncertainty of the impact of redistricting, Motz still would have declined to intervene.

Pierpont and Wilkes, odd couple that they were, nevertheless rendered a service by at least putting the plan before a federal court. The judge has in effect given a judicial stamp of approval to the new districting plan on the test of fairness that is demanded by the courts. Now let us hope that the candidates, by their conduct of the campaign, and the voters, by their performance at the polls in September, will demonstrate that the new plan is, indeed, a fair one for everyone.

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