MARCH 2, 1951
NEW YORK, Thursday—There has been a very important bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Emanuel Celler (D., N.Y.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The heading on the bill, HR 2648, reads: "To require the establishment of Congressional districts composed of contiguous and compact territories in the election of Representatives and for other purposes."
Representative Celler says that the simple question before the House is whether its members should represent all the people fairly and equally, or allow the present inequalities and injustices to continue. He feels that each citizen through his Congressman is entitled to an effective and equal voice in his government.
It is usually the state legislatures, rather than Congress, that fix the times, places and manner for holding elections for Senators and Representatives. But Mr. Celler maintains that the Constitution also provides: "That Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations except as to the place of choosing Senators." Then he cites a case in which the Supreme Court in 1948 "held that it is within the power of Congress to set up standards which the state must follow in enacting reapportionment legislation."
It would seem to me, therefore, that this bill will force the states into a position where they will have to remedy any inequalities that may exist within the state.
The bill provides that each state entitled to more than one Representative shall establish a Congressional District for each Representative, instead of simply electing a Congressman-at-Large as has sometimes been done. It also provides that the District shall be composed of compact areas. This, of course, is designed to prevent the curious patterns that have been established in some states for political purposes and to make it impossible to maneuver the voters for political ends. This practice has been known as gerrymandering.
There also is a provision to make as fair as possible these divisions as to numbers of people voting in the different districts. It seems to me that it is high time that some such regulation was passed, and I hope both Republicans and Democrats will join together to make it possible.
In talking the other day with Paul Comly French, executive director for CARE, I was telling him that important as I thought government programs are in aiding countries that for one reason or another are unable to meet their own needs, I still felt that the person-to-person appeal was of enormous value and helped to increase understanding between nations. For instance, if one family sends parcels of food and clothing at stated intervals to another family and the letters begin to flow back and forth, little by little families here and families on the other side of the world will begin to know a little more about the way of life and the way of thought in their correspondents' countries. Friendship is almost sure to develop and sometimes even visits are the result. So, I hope CARE will be enabled to carry on some of this type of aid even if it is slightly more costly.