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It would be a move toward a situation which existed before 1968, when each county could have a maximum of one state senator. Butte County had one; Los Angeles County had one. Some of the smaller counties shared a senator — Tehama, Glenn and Colusa for instance — but none of the 40 districts included more than three counties.

It was clearly modeled after the federal system with a House of Representatives based on population, and a Senate that has two representatives from each state, regardless of size.

It was one of those things in the Constitution — like the Bill of Rights — designed to prevent the “tyranny of the majority,” a significant threat to a democratic system in which the people in power disenfranchise those without.

But the federal legislative setup is spelled out in the Constitution, making it immune from any challenge through the courts. But state legislatures set up using the federal model are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, so they did not get that pass. Instead they were subject to a different provision that guarantees equal protection for all.

And that was determined by the Supreme Court to mean that the 10 million people in Los Angles County would be shortchanged if they only got one senator, the same as the 224,000 people in Butte County.

In a series of ruling in the 1960s, the concept of “one man, one vote” became the law. And the California Senate was redistricted into a body in which there are a dozen or so districts in the L.A. area, and a dozen or so counties in the northern 1st District.

Cities have a lock on both houses of the Legislature, with no checks on their legislators’ power. And they use that power in ways that are harmful to the rest of us. They pass one-size-fits-all laws to solve urban problems, that create or exacerbate rural problems. They pass laws designed to appeal to urban sensitivities that are oblivious about and harmful to rural realities. They regulate rural issues they are clueless about.

They’ve created a frustration which fuels the State of Jefferson movement and other proposals to split the state. Another proposal has been floated that would give each county a senator.

That’s not to say we should stop trying. It’s important to remind the Legislature that we’re here, and we’re unhappy. We might not make things better, but they’re bound to get worse if we just shut up.

James Seif

Yuba City, CA

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