Castro and McEnroe hang tough, the ethics of pastrami, gerrymandering galore, and other matters. THE 67% SOLUTION

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Gerrymandering is in the news these days, and you will doubtless find many an opportunity to work into dinner-party conversation the fact that the term was creatively named for Elbridge Gerry, who as governor of Massachusetts (1810-12) plotted a statewide redistricting scheme advantageous to the Democrats while incidentally causing Essex County to be shaped like a salamander. Today's gerrymandering schemes are even weirder. They tend to be driven by affirmative-action logic, and may or may not be constitutional. The arguments about gerrymandering, now running hot and heavy because of post- census congressional redistricting, are mostly centered on the meaning of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The original act was very much a part of the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, and took aim at a broad array of reprehensible tactics, from violence to poll taxes, that had been used to keep blacks from voting. Today's arguments, however, are mostly about two paragraphs added to Section 2 of the act in 1982 amendments. These amendments concern the right of minority-group members ''to elect representatives of their choice.'' In determining whether this right is being abridged, says the critical passage in Section 2, the courts must consider ''the extent to which members of a protected class have been elected to office.'' Section 2 is a classic recipe from the congressional fudge factory. The words just quoted seem to imply that if protected classes (a category that in this context means blacks and Hispanics) are electing less than their share of officials, then their civil rights are under attack -- which sounds like a mandate for electoral quotas. When Jesse Helms and other conservatives made this point in the 1982 debate, the amendment's sponsors turned around and added a proviso: that nothing in Section 2 establishes a right of minorities to proportional representation. What then does the passage mean? Nobody knows for sure, so the issue will be resolved in the courts. The record thus far suggests that quotas will in fact be hard to beat back. In a 1986 case, Thornburg v. Gingles, the Supreme Court held that protected classes can win redistricting suits even when there is no finding of discriminatory intent. Justice William Brennan, the opinion's author (now retired), also went a long way down the road to championing racial proportional representation. Nobody denies that blacks, like Jews and Italians and everybody else, have a right to prefer candidates of their own ethnic background. But the 1986 decision went further: It found a violation of civil rights in a governmental failure to facilitate bloc voting. Specifically, Thornburg argued that the greater the degree of racial polarization in voting, the greater the requirement to establish electoral districts in which black candidates would prevail. The requirement has led to some wonderful new voting arithmetic. Blacks on average do not vote at the same rate as whites. Since Thornburg, therefore, a ''black district'' has come to mean one with whatever percentage of voting- age blacks is required to get a majority on election day. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People puts the figure at 65%, and it can point to cases in which judges have required some such level in voting rights cases. To be sure, the NAACP also worries about the problem of ''packing,'' i.e., cramming too many blacks into a district (and thereby wasting black votes). Packing is said to begin at around the 70% level. Which implies that the average nondiscriminatory ratio needs to be something very close to 67%. One of these days, there is almost certainly going to be a direct challenge to the logic of the Thornburg decision. In a three-sentence dissent in another voting rights case this spring, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy used up one whole sentence to utter a portentous thought: that the present Court has yet to consider whether the Thornburg decision ''is consistent with the requirements of the United States Constitution.'' You somehow sense that he knows his own answer.