Chicago politicians turn math upside-down

September 12, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

Join me in taking a simple arithmetic test. You need answer only true or false.

Q. The number 55 is bigger than the number 42.

A. False. The number 42 is much bigger than the number 55.

You disagree? That isn't what they taught you in school?

All that means is you are unaware of a highly regarded form of new goofy math.

I'm not talking about the "new math" that popped up in schools a few years ago, confusing the teachers almost as much as the students.

This new goofy math is used by lawyers, judges, politicians and other madcaps to create a new entitlement, which might be described as voting welfare.

Here is how it works.

This process is laid out in federal court records, where many weird ideas can be found.

It is part of a lawsuit in which black Chicago politicians say a new ward map does not give black voters as many aldermen as they deserve.

This new ward map was overwhelmingly approved by Chicago voters a couple of years ago, but the black politicians say that vote shouldn't count.

After the suit was filed, it was tossed out by a federal judge. But a federal appeals court has sent it back for further legal blathering.

Here is the way the situation is described by the appellate panel:

"The challenged plan creates 23 wards in which whites are at least a bare majority of the population, 19 in which blacks have at least a 65 percent majority and 1 in which they [blacks] have 55 percent, and 7 in which Hispanics have at least a 65 percent majority.

"The reason for conceiving 'majority' differently for whites on the one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the other is that the latter groups have a younger age distribution and therefore a lower percentage of voting-age members, and also lower voter registration and turnout among those who are of voting age.

"The rule of thumb is that these groups must have at least a 65 percent majority in the electoral district in order to have a reasonable assurance of being able to elect a candidate of their choice.

"The complaint alleges that no black aldermanic candidate in Chicago has ever beaten a white in a ward that has a black majority of less than 62.6 percent, and it is emphatic that the ward in which the population is 55 percent black is not a black ward -- is indeed a white ward, even though only 42 percent of its population is white."

There you have it, the incredible "Goofymath." If 55 percent of the people in a ward are black, and 42 percent are white, then the number 42 is bigger than the number 55.

And according to Goofymath, anything less than 62.6 percent is not a majority.

But instead of the judges laughing merrily and saying, "you are real kidders," this is all taken seriously. As the appellate judges say, the Goofymath is now "the rule of thumb."

It doesn't seem to occur to the politicians, the lawyers, the judges and the other social tinkerers, that if 62.6 percent of the people in a ward can't win an election, the fault lies with that 62.6 percent. The solution is for more of that 62.6 percent to haul themselves to the voting place and vote.

And if 42 percent of a ward is white, and a white candidate wins, that doesn't mean that 42 percent is more than 62 percent. It means that the 42 percent saw an opportunity and took it and the 62 percent didn't.

But that isn't the way it works with Goofymath and voter welfare. Hispanics in Chicago have been notorious for not voting.

What's the solution? Common sense says that if people have an opportunity to vote, but don't bother, that is their loss.

Not with Goofymath and voter welfare. So a congressional district was created that runs through the city like a long, crazed tapeworm, gobbling up whatever Hispanic voters it could find. Hispanics still have a feeble voting record, but with the meandering map they now have their own congressman, whether they care or not.

Lucky for these guys they became politicians, lawyers and judges instead of bookies. If they covered bets with Goofymath, they'd be broke or floating in the river.

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