The editorial "Legislative Districts and Race," July 30, fails to acknowledge an important distinction between racial identity and party identification. There are numerous protections against electoral discrimination on the basis of race, but not on the basis of party identification.The US has a history of political institutions being used by the white majority to nullify the voting power of black Americans both by preventing them from voting or manipulating district lines to ensure their status as a minority constituency. This is not ancient history. "White primaries" and "literacy tests" were used into the 1960s; the poll tax had to be constitutionally banned in 1964. In order for a discriminatory practice to pose a threat to the vitality of the democratic process, it must be related to a long-standing suppression of fundamental rights. There is such a pattern of voting discrimination against African-Americans; there is no such pattern adversely impacting either of the political parties. Franke S. Hess, Bozeman, Mont.
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