Pennsylvania is considered one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation. The state Supreme Court confirmed this last month that our congressional districts, drawn by republicans in 2011, are unconstitutional. They ordered that they be redrawn for 2018. This decision reaffirms how the current redistricting process is unfair and a way for political parties to manipulate our democracy.
Regardless of your political affiliation, gerrymandering violates your constitutional rights and weakens our democracy. Here are TEN reasons why you should be outraged regardless of which party is drawing the lines:
1) Right now, politicians are choosing their voters. It is a conflict of interest to allow elected officials to control redistricting and essentially select their constituents. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
2) Redistricting is conducted behind closed doors. There is very little transparency to how district maps are drawn in Pennsylvania. There is no oversight, no public approval required, and no quality of standards.
3) Party “bigwigs” and special interests control the process. Politicians may not always have Pennsylvanians’ best interests in mind when drawing these maps. Pennsylvania is an important swing state and redistricting attracts a ton of money from out-of-state political players and special interests.
4) Voters lose their influence. If politicians benefit from safe, gerrymandered districts, they no longer need to listen to their constituents and, instead, are controlled by party leaders and special interests. They know that incumbents are rarely challenged in primaries and can easily retain their seats in general elections. So why should they care what you think?
5) Gerrymandering is further dividing us. There was a time in this country when republicans and democrats could work together. Gerrymandering forces candidates to appeal to their extreme bases and results in political gridlock in Harrisburg and in D.C.
6) Voters feel frustrated and choose not to turn out for important elections. If you don’t feel like you are represented, there is a good chance you are not. Safe, gerrymandered districts mean less choice at the ballot box and no consequences for politicians who vote against their constituents’ best interests.
7) Local governments are divided. Once upon a time, communities were kept intact through redistricting. Now, it is not unusual to see boroughs, cities, and school districts divided, literally and figuratively. This makes it difficult for local leaders to garner the attention of legislative and congressional representatives and can even pit communities against one another when it comes to government funding or support.
8) Independents and 3rd party voters have zero representation. Democrats may feel bamboozled by Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered districts but no one is more under-represented than the 3rd-party voters who have absolute no say in the process.
9) Gerrymandering can mean one-party control for decades. Republicans gerrymandered Pennsylvania’s districts in 2012 with a goal to firm up republican majorities for years to come. They failed to predict, however, that democrats would control the state Supreme Court and thus control legislative redistricting in 2021. No political party should have the ability to unilaterally rig the system and secure political power so far into the future.
10) Rural and urban communities unnecessarily compete. There is no doubt that rural and urban areas have distinct needs. With gerrymandering, these areas are intentionally cracked and split so that rural regions may be diluted in urban districts or vice versa. Thus, rural and/or urban issues may not receive the attention they deserve.
How do we fix this?
Fair Districts PA has a comprehensive proposal that would restore a working, representative democracy and end gerrymandering. Proposed legislation would:
• establish an independent commission that is representative of Pennsylvanians; [The commission would ensure representation of republicans, democrats, and 3rd parties and any approved map would require support from at least one member of each of these three groups. ]
• ensure an open process that allows for ample and meaningful public input; and
• end the practice of using voting data, party affiliation, or personal addresses when redistricting.
It all seems pretty reasonable and fair. Unfortunately, not one of our state legislators has signed on as co-sponsors to SB22 or HB722.
Call your legislators today and ask that they support a fair and transparent redistricting process. Visit FairDistrictsPA.com.
Nicole Faraguna is a founding member of Susquehanna Valley Progress and an organizing member of the Fair Districts PA – Susquehanna Valley group.