The Opinion Exchange piece "Minnesota saved its seat, but 'safe seats' are dangerous" (April 30) raised some good points but overlooked a larger point: The country has become geographically much more polarized. That will make it much harder even for the most committed drawers of districts to make most of them competitive. The Tufts University mathematician Moon Duchin, an expert on redistricting and gerrymandering, investigated potential districts in Massachusetts with sophisticated computer programs and detailed voter information. She concluded that it was virtually impossible to redistrict that state to make even one Republican competitive. Some other states are just as strongly weighted toward Republicans.
While Minnesota is more evenly divided, the geographical split is still quite strong. If the writer wanted to have eight competitive districts here, the districts might look like pieces of pie, with the Twin Cities, a majority of the population, at the center of the pie so as to split that heavily Democratic area and similarly divide the heavily Republican outstate population. That would run counter to one goal of districts: representing a coherent group of people. Having each district include chunks of urban, suburban and rural voters would make it hard for any representative to represent any of those voices. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, was a very effective voice for farmers in the heavily agricultural (and Republican) Seventh District for a long time. Would there be any voice for farmers in Minnesota with eight competitive districts? Similarly, urban and suburban Minnesotan constituents deserve voices in Congress.
I agree that we need to avoid protecting incumbency. But the answer is not naively to try to make every district competitive. A number of mathematicians have been studying this problem and have more nuanced approaches. I encourage readers to check out the website of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (mggg.org). We need to find a way to redistrict Minnesota that can fairly represent all Minnesotans.
Thomas Q. Sibley, St. Joseph, Minn.
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I enjoyed reading the opinion piece about congressional "safe seats." All too often we allow incumbents to insulate themselves from electoral competition. Gerrymandered districts and harsh ballot access laws are probably the two most obvious examples.
Another possible solution to gerrymandering districts, which was not discussed, would be to have adopted some form of proportional representation. In theory, Minnesota could become one large, multi-member district, with seats awarded to a party based on the percentage of votes cast.
Yes, Congress would have to approve proportional representation in multi-member congressional elections — I believe that Congress banned the practice in the 1960s — but it would certainly make for more competitive elections.
Edward T.J. Brown, Parkers Prairie, Minn.
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David Lebedoff points out the problem with "safe" districts; in brief, they promote extremism that leads to legislative gridlock. He says, "The cure for this is obvious: make most districts competitive." That may, indeed, be a cure, but it is not the cure. I won't spend time poking holes in Lebedoff's cure (e.g., that demographics change, that primary voters cannot be counted on to vote for the most electable party member in the race, that one can't know if district lines are drawn to make the district competitive ...) because his proposal is not without merit. But I will note that one state (Alaska) has a superior cure for discouraging fringe candidates. In that state, primaries are not by party. Their primaries look more like general elections; everybody is on one ballot. The top four vote-getters move on to the general where ranked-choice voting picks the winner. To be successful in that system candidates must have a broader appeal than just the party base. They won't win a primary by positioning themselves as the champions of the fringes of their parties.
This method is even more effective in finding representative candidates if, as Lebedoff suggests, districts are drawn fairly.
Rolf bolstad, Minneapolis
Don't hang anything on the mirror
Early one fine summer morning I stopped at a Rainbow Foods store on my way to work. I had parked right near the door, and when I came out, the parking lot was empty except for a young bicyclist. As I headed diagonally across the lot toward the exit, I couldn't locate the kid. I turned randomly right and left and still couldn't see him, and my anxiety prompted me to brake. The kid popped out from behind whatever I had hanging from the rearview mirror, alarmingly close to my front bumper. I don't know if the kid was playing or was oblivious to me, but ever since I have been pleading with people to eschew leaving anything hanging anything from their mirror. Needless to say, I've changed my mind about how stupid the law is regarding obstructed vision from things hanging from the rearview mirror.
What I haven't changed my mind about is the heavy-handed manner of policing by our samurai-style police who make the slightest disrespect or misdemeanor a capital offense, liable to instant judgment, especially by anyone their imperious nature deems inferior.
John Lyle crivits, St. Paul
These criticisms are absurd
How could anyone suggest a Black juror could not fairly judge a now-convicted white murderer because he attended a rally honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.? ("Juror defends presence at rally," front page, May 4.) So, if you think, as MLK did, that lynching Black people is a bad idea, you're not qualified to judge white people?
Perhaps all Christians should be eliminated from murder trial juries because they publicly side with Jesus over the Romans and Pharisees in church each week. Maybe their opinion about that murder taints their judgment of any murder.
The numbing depth and breadth of racism in America transcends all reason.
Nathan Viste-Ross, Minneapolis
A better pitch for getting vaccinated
Mr. President, Anthony Fauci and major media: You may be doing it wrong. Although more than 105 million Americans are fully vaccinated, you are still trying to convince many hesitant Americans to get their shots. Maybe you should frame and sell the message as "Don't lose your sense of taste and smell. Get your shot today" rather than "If you don't get your shot, you may die."
People know that getting COVID does not usually mean death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 32 million Americans have caught COVID. And all but around 574,000 have survived. The chances of death from COVID are statistically small.
However, the chances of losing your taste and smell from COVID infection are substantially greater. According to the U.S. News and World Report, in a European study of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19, 86% reported problems with their sense of smell and a similar number with taste.
Maybe use an updated sales pitch to get more shots in American arms: "Want to better enjoy your spring and summer? Get the COVID shot. And keep your senses of smell and taste."
Speaking from personal experience, it's a bummer to lose these. I haven't been able to smell or taste anything since my own COVID infection in mid-March. Would be a bummer not to have these senses for the Minnesota State Fair. Will keep my fingers crossed.
Neil F. Anderson, Richfield
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