Gerrymandering is redistricting gone bad, a corruption of a process to keep equal numbers of voters in a state’s voting districts.
GERRYMANDERING - PURPOSE OF VOTING DISTRICTS
PA has three types of voting districts - each district directly elects one legislator
US House of Representatives - 18 districts - 18 Representatives
PA House of Representatives - 203 districts - 203 Representatives
PA Senate - 50 districts - 50 Senators
Districts influence the Electoral College and the Presidential election
GERRYMANDERING - WHY/HOW REDISTRICTING IS DONE
Population shifts over time. The US Census, done every 10 years tracks those changes.
After the Census, we redraw the boundaries of the districts so that they contain equal numbers of voters. Redistricting is supposed to create districts that do not divide towns, townships, school districts unless it is unavoidable.
PA’s Constitution establishes how redistricting is done:
a 5-person Commission
US Congress recommends candidates
PA State House & Senate appoint 4 members - 2 Republicans & 2 Democrats
Those 4 people OR the PA Supreme Court picks 5th member
The people being elected (US House of Representatives and both State Houses) choose who draws the lines - therefore, the people being elected influence elections.
GERRYMANDERING - REDISTRICTING FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE
When a Commission draws lines to create a political advantage or disadvantage, the redistricting is Gerrymandering. This process got its name in 1812 - MA Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a district plan that favored Republicans; outraged Federalists gave the name “Gerrymandering” to the corrupt redistricting process.
GERRYMANDERING - WHY IS IT A PROBLEM
Protects favored incumbents
moves lines to support them
inhibits entry of new candidates
limits our choices at the polls
Punishes incumbents who push back on the party
moves lines to oust them
encourages voting with the party
reduces importance of constituent priorities
Fosters partisan gridlock
The problem: politicians choose their voters - voters no longer choose their politicians.
GERRYMANDERING - IS IT A PROBLEM IN PA/HOW TO FIX IT
In 2010, the redistricting commission redrew lines that maintained equal populations in districts, but ignored the requirements to make districts compact and contiguous, and allowed lines to cut through towns, townships, school districts... Berks County has four districts. Their boundaries meander, bisect incorporated entities. Berks’ districts extend into SEVEN other counties.
In 2010, Project RedMap - a PAC, injected money into state elections, influenced who chose the redistricting commission, and helped to make our districts political tools. For 2020, we have both Project Redmap 2020 and Advantage 2020 waiting to do the same.
GERRYMANDERING - AMEND THE PA CONSTITUTION?
Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722, if passed, would amend the Constitution
to create an 11-person Commission
US Congress does not recommend candidates
4 members from Democrats, 4 m
members from Republicans
3 members from other parties
majority of 7 to pass a redistricting plan
The bills were introduced early in 2017.
To change redistricting process, they must be law before 2020.
By May, 86 legislators supported SB22.
Some legislators like it as is.
Some legislators believe the process is still to politicized.
Some legislators believe that Gerrymandering is NOT a problem in PA.
A recent thrust is raising this issue to the US Supreme Court
What we need to do…
Look at the changes to the voting district boundaries.
Hold our state legislators accountable to have a fair redistricting approach.
Actively support legislators’ efforts to ensure fair redistricting.