5 vs 3:?Representation and Accountability
Recently, there has been a proposal to reduce the number of Supervisors from five to three. This letter is a comment on the proposal.
The most essential part of any democracy is the representation of citizens, and their ability to participate in the affairs of government. As citizens of our nation, state, county, township and city, we need the ability to have our ideas and our concerns considered by those whom we have elected. Too often we elect officials that seem to lose site of their roots among the voters who elected them. Too often we hear of elected officials who cater to a few “special interests,” rather than the concerns of the voters. It seems to us, that voters need to have representation that is more accountable to the voters. We believe that elected officials are more accountable if they represent fewer people.
As of the 2010 census, each of our two Federal Senators represents the total population of Iowa:?3,046,355. That means that if you or I contact our senators, we each have only a single voice among 3 million others. That’s actually very good. Voters in California each have a single voice among 37 million.
The ratio is better for the U.S. House of Representatives. There, we each have a voice among 761,571 others. For this group, the residents of Palo Alto County are now one county among 39 counties.
In the Iowa Senate, each voter has a single voice among 60,798 after redistricting. The major problem with our Senate district is that it will soon stretch from Palo Alto County on the East, to Lyon County on the State’s Western border. Still, the number of voters per State Senator will be better than Congress, but not as good as the Iowa House district where each voter will have a single voice among 30,404.
Palo Alto County has a total population of 9,421. Under a five-supervisor system, with districts, each voter has one voice among 1,884. Under a three-supervisor system, that increases to one voice among 3,140. Under an at-large system, that increases to one voice among 9,421. What voters lose under either a three-supervisor system or an at-large system is represenatation and accountability. Under an at-large system, (the worst case scenario) each supervisor is one-fifth as accountable, and each of us has one-fifth the voice that we currently have.
Those who suggest that tax payers could save money by reducing the number of supervisors, need to also consider the cost of reduced representation in the context of reduced accountability. Just compare the two opposites of the examples above. Who among us could conclude that we have as much influence among our two Federal Senators, as voters have among our county supervisors??Call the office of either of our Federal Senators and see if you get through to that Senator. Write a letter to your Federal Senator, and see if the response you get back (if you even get a response) suggests that your Senator really personally considered your ideas. However, you can call your county Supervisor, and talk about most any issue, and you will know that your ideas were heard and considered. Let’s keep the system that keeps Palo Alto County supervisors most accountable.
Keith Greiner, Pleasant Hill, IA