Gerrymandering is one of the unfortunate side effects of living in a democracy or a republic. It’s the practice of creating voting districts favorable to a particular party, candidate, or issue. Both major parties engage in it, though most of the time they do it in a somewhat subtle way. Not so in Columbia, Missouri where the city council attempted to carve out a tax district in order to raise taxes. The catch was that there were no eligible voters in the district to vote against the measure, so the council expected it to sail right through.
Their plan hit a snag, however, when it turned out that there is one person eligible to vote after all, which could lead to the most satisfying backfire against political corruption in recent memory. Jen Henderson, a 23 year old student at the University of Missouri, is eligible to vote on the half cent tax increase thanks to a loophole in the redistricting plans, according to the Weekly Standard on August 27.
Gallingly, the city attempted to get her to unregister as a voter for the measure so they could slip it in and collect that sweet cash from property owners who can not vote on a tax increase on themselves. Henderson was understandably appalled when she discovered that not only did the city want to take her right to vote away from her, but that the tax would fall primarily on low income residents while benefiting businesses in the area.
“Taxing their food is kind of sad, especially when [Executive Director Carrie Gartner] is going to be making like $70,000 a year off of this whole deal,” Henderson said. “These people make a quarter of that. They can barely afford to go buy food, and you’re taxing their food.”
Needless to say she is leaning toward a “no” vote.
In order to try to keep the story under wraps, they cited privacy concerns for Henderson’s sake. After all, we have a secret ballot for a reason, and she should be protected from having her vote made public. The only problem is that Henderson wants her involvement to be public in order to draw attention to the crony capitalism on display.
“[Gartner] tried to get me to unregister, and that’s pretty manipulative,” said Henderson regarding the situation. “The district plan and the district border is manipulative too.” She adds that things “just didn’t seem to be as good as they were saying to me at first.”
While Henderson is saying she has still yet to make a final decision on which way to vote, she has certainly brought to the forefront some pretty blatant gerrymandering in her city. Now if only it was so easy to spot everywhere else.