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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gerrymandering: How Our Elections Are Really Rigged - Part Two

State Sen. Lisa Boscola
Blogger's Note: This is a continuation of a series on gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. Yesterday's story was an explanation of the problem. Today's entry is a review of bipartisan legislation aimed at ending the practice. Tomorrow, Common Cause's Barry Kauffman has some suggestions on what you can do. On Friday, I'll let you where some other local legislators stand on this issue.  

Democrat Lisa Boscola is without question very popular in her state senatorial district. Her constituents may actually love her. The leaders in the state house and senate? Not so much. "I swear, if there was a bridge you could build to New Jersey, they'd put me there," she only half-jokes.  That bridge might be under construction right now. Boscola is the prime sponsor of a senate bill (SB484) that would eliminate gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by establishing an independent citizens' commission to draw the boundary lines for Congressional and state legislative seats every ten years. A companion bill in the state house (HB 1835) has been offered by State Representative Dave Parker, a Republican from Monroe County.

Both Boscola and Parker were among the panelists at Friday's crowded gerrymandering conference at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

State Rep.David Parker
Boscola has first-hand experience with gerrymandering. As a victim. When she was a State Representative, she and two other Democrats rebelled against party leaders to support then Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, on some matters. Party leaders retaliated by gerrymandering the defectors out of a job, and were aiming at her. Boscola survived only because she ran for the state senate, and won. "They couldn't get me," she laughs.

In addition to being a victim, Boscola has witnessed legislators abandon their principles very quickly when their job security is threatened by party leaders. Though everyone wants to see property tax reform, she watched in amazement as the infamous SB76 property tax relief bill was struck down by just one vote in late 2015.  "If you really represent your district, you should do what you think is right," she argues. But she watched as leaders pulled one Senator aside and sent him home for the day. Another switched his vote when threatened.

Unlike most, Boscola has publicly expressed her disgust for our current redistricting system, right from the Senate floor.

"[O]ur current system has become a tainted, corrupt, disingenuous mess. Gerrymandered and distorted district boundaries have become the rule rather than the exception. If you do not believe me, take a look at the map of some of our State's congressional districts. There is a so-called 1-81 district [Lou Barletta] that stretches from Adams County in the south all of the way to the northern tier in northeastern Pennsylvania. Then there is the 1-78 district [Charlie Dent], which snakes its way through the Easton line all the way to the Harrisburg suburbs. Do not even get me started on the 6th Congressional District.

"Mr. President, we should be embarrassed and ashamed. The blame for this politically polluted system lies squarely at the feet of politicians who have the power to choose their own constituencies. It should not work that way, and all of us know it. Our current system has harmed everything from fairness of our elections to the level of cooperation and compromise between lawmakers." 
The Boscola-Parker bills

Instead of the inherent conflict of interest that exists when politicians are allowed to choose their voters, instead of the other way around, the Boscola-Parker bills establish an 11-person commission to draw the boundaries. It will consist of four members of the largest party, four members of the second largest party and three members who are registered as independent or with another party. Elected officials, staffers, lobbyists and state party officials are ineligible. No politics.

New maps require a super-majority of seven votes and there must be at least one vote from each of the three groups. The newly drawn districts must meet a standard test of compactness, and no district may be drawn to favor a political party or, for that matter, anyone else.

This proposal is based on how redistricting is done in Iowa (since1980), Arizona (2010) and California (2010).

A proposal for a citizens' commission in Illinois has been blocked by its state supreme court, along party lines. But the United States Supreme Court upheld an independent commission in Arizona. Legislators had contended they had the power, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg countered "that the people themselves are the originating source of all powers of government."

The Iowa system, which consists mostly of compact rectangles, has never been challenged. "I see a pathway to Republican control. I can also see a pathway to Democrat control," says their Republican House Speaker. 

Boscola also said that a citizens’ commission to end gerrymandering should be part of any attempt to downsize the state legislature. 

"If you're going to downsize the legislature, you better do something about redistricting and how the citizens redistrict because if the leaders get to decide which House and Senate members get to stay, who do you think they are going to want to stay? The leader is going to be able to pick which ones stay. Not the people.

When the legislature voted to reduce its size (it must vote again), Boscola offered an amendment to provide for a citizen redistricting commission, but she said the Senate was able to sidestep it without a vote. 

46 comments:

Not a robot said...

Boscola has first-hand experience with gerrymandering. As a victim. When she was a State Representative, she and two other Democrats rebelled against party leaders to support then Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, on some matters. Party leaders retaliated by gerrymandering the defectors out of a job, and were aiming at her. Boscola survived only because she ran for the state senate, and won. "They couldn't get me," she laughs.

Why should we believe anything she says about Gerrymandering when she puts forwards such an obvious fabrication? Boscola was elected to the State House in 1994. In 1998 she defeated Lenny Gruppo for an open seat in the State Senate. Redistricting is done every ten years after the census. She was never in the State House when redistricting was done (1991, 2001, 2011).

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

There is no such thing as an independent commission, it will be politically corrupt, at least at present the winners get the spoils for 10 years, while not the best situation, it is really all about the democrats trying to shift the balance of power in the state.

Anonymous said...

I know your coverage here is related to an event, but there are a couple of other bills besides Parker's and Boscola's. To Lisa's credit she has co-sponsored every one of the senate proposals related to reapportionment. Parker's name is only on his own.

Anonymous said...

Ray, Dave Parker is a Republican. Are you suggesting he is trying to shift the balance of power to Democrats?

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare wrote:

"...the Boscola-Parker bills establish an 11-person commission to draw the boundaries. It will consist of four members of the largest party, four members of the second largest party and three members who are registered as independent or with another party. Elected officials, staffers, lobbyists and state party officials are ineligible. No politics."


Two points:

1) The article fails to mention who is picking this 11-person commission (although I think we can guess who does it, and it ain't us), and

2) I'm sure there won't be any FORMER elected officials, FORMER staffers, FORMER lobbyists or FORMER state party officials chosen. And nobody from the two major parties would EVER change their registration to independent (or something else) to be placed into the slots for independents and other parties.


I'm willing to listen to the details of the plan, but the bottom line is that even with gerrymandered districts, I still have a better chance of voting out my elected representative (if I don't like the way the districts are drawn) than I do to vote out the unelected members of a commission.

Anonymous said...

"...the Boscola-Parker bills establish an 11-person commission to draw the boundaries. It will consist of four members of the largest party, four members of the second largest party and three members who are registered as independent or with another party. Elected officials, staffers, lobbyists and state party officials are ineligible. No politics."

Housewives, bartenders and other common, non-political people need not apply. What you will have are the "activists" who hold by themselves no political office or position, but are the community activist types whose names appear in the news regularly.

All this will lead to is deadlock as the political bickering between the parties will eliminate any meaningful change taking place between unworkable proposals based on political desires of both or all sides.

The outcome will be no changes in the boundaries as drawn before this "commission" and much litigation.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Yes, he who controls the 6 members of the commission controls the state. It would be a much sought after position, the most powerful 6 people in the state.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Establish a commission, appoint a commission, there is no way that any commission would be in the best interests of the citizens of Pennsylvania. It is a way to control and consolidate power. Lets have elections and the majority will rule. If you don't like the rule inform the citizens to vote for the other guys. could you see the lines that would be drawn to incorporate the vast numbers of Philadelphia and Pittsburg into rural areas in the cause of fairness. Once we go to this commission business we would never get rid of it and it could make decision's like the supreme court that have no basis in law or reason.

Anonymous said...

"Lets have elections and the majority will rule. If you don't like the rule inform the citizens to vote for the other guys". Great idea. you'd be amazed to learn that D's got more votes in the contested state house races than R's in 2014. If the line drawing wasn't rigged (Trump term), R's would be in the minority. Instead, with a rigged election, they win. It's the only way they win.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ray, learn to read. You need 7 votes and at least one vote from each of the Rs, Ds, and "others." Stop spouting and actually read what is proposed.

Anonymous said...

try
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Citizens_Redistricting_Commission

"The California State Auditor collected nearly 5,000 completed applications out of over 30,000[25] for the commission. A three-member panel of auditors reviewed the applications and conducted interviews to establish a pool of 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans, and 20 applicants from neither major party. The panel submitted the list of 60 of the most qualified applicants to the Legislature on September 29, 2010.[23]

The speaker of the California State Assembly, the president pro tempore of the California State Senate, and the minority party leaders in the Assembly and the Senate, as authorized by the law, jointly reduced the pools to 12 members in each pool. The Legislature submitted a list of applicants remaining in the pool on 12 November 2010.[23] The State Auditor then randomly drew three Democrats, three Republicans, and two applicants from neither major party to become commissioners on 18 November 2010.[23] Finally, these first eight commissioners selected six commissioners from the remaining applicants in the pools on 15 December 2010.

sounds better than the existing process

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Ok, you are right, so the insiders only need to control 7 to control the state. why would any republican at this point vote for this.

Dave said...

Political political for a political problem

Yup, let's have a commission solve it.

Dave said...

Ray @ 11:13

The court challenges will be endless.

Anonymous said...

"why would any republican at this point vote for this." Hey Bernie, you have your answer on who is standing in the way of this reform: Republicans! They are afraid to lose control. Look at all the proposals in the house and senate. Parker's is the only reform introduced by an R and it has more D support than R support. The other bills are all D bills.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:03, If you accuse someone of lying, you yourself should take responsibility and ID yourself. Boscola did not say that it was going to happen then and there, She said it was going to happen. So your conclusion is far from "obvious." Should i now call you a liar?

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

So. 9.18 you admit this is about giving the democrats an enhanced opportunity to become the majority. does anyone believe if the situation was reversed, the dems would fight tooth and nail to keep it the way it is. When you are at war you do not give the enemy any opportunity to crush you.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

11.28 you bet, only a fool would give up his advantage to the enemy. that's why the dems are crying, because for once they are on the short end. Now they are going to cry , it is unfair, just not right, next it will be racist or bigoted. anything to retake the advantage.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:28, So it seems.

Anonymous said...

I am of the belief that any major piece of legislation should require a 75% majority to pass. That way it will be assured support by the minority party as well as the majority.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:38, The Commission shall be selected by lot from a pool of qualified applicants who submit their names to the Sec'y of State. There is no politics. It is actually the way Athenians at one time selected their leaders. The Commission members will consist of people who have neither held nor sought office within the past five years. Being a staffer, consultant or lobbyist gets you disqualified. Being an officer or staffer with a a state political party gets you disqualified. The SOS will be looking for mathematicians, not politicians.

Anonymous said...

#11:35 Ray, we see how the Democrats govern. Just look at Wolf's issues supporting a simple budget resolution.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I am of the belief that any major piece of legislation should require a 75% majority to pass. That way it will be assured support by the minority party as well as the majority."

Then you should like this Comm'n bc it requires votes from seven members. Requiring a 75% majority will likely be possible if the gerrymandering continues.

Anonymous said...

@11:48 That means Rendell is eligible to be on this "Commission". Once a partisan politician, always a partisan politician.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:50,Incorrect. Rendell has been a consultant for numerous candidates and is hence ineligible.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Ok, you are right, so the insiders only need to control 7 to control the state. why would any republican at this point vote for this."

This has nothing to do with "insiders" and that is what really bothers you. And here I thought you wanted to make America great again. You want insiders making the call, in a backroom, excluding everyone else. This solution is completely nonpolitical. The names are chosen at random, by the SOS, from a list of qualified applicants. There will be four Republicans, four Democrats and three others. No politics.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"only a fool would give up his advantage to the enemy. "

This is about democracy, not its subversion. The system in place is making our elections a joke,as we can see on a national level.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So. 9.18 you admit this is about giving the democrats an enhanced opportunity to become the majority. does anyone believe if the situation was reversed, the dems would fight tooth and nail to keep it the way it is. When you are at war you do not give the enemy any opportunity to crush you."

There is no doubt that if Ds were the party in control, they would be doing exactly the same thing. This is about giving everyone, even from minor parties, the same opportunity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Housewives, bartenders and other common, non-political people need not apply. What you will have are the "activists" who hold by themselves no political office or position, but are the community activist types whose names appear in the news regularly."

Nonsense. This is for mathematicians, not politicians. Most of the people who are community activist types are people who have served as consultants or who have run for office and lost. Most will be ineligible.

It does help to read the legislation. I have linked to both bills.

Anonymous said...

This is all pie in the sky b.s. Shaping the power structure in the state for the next decade is something neitehr party would be willing to give up.

If you don't like how things are, then vote for the candidate you support. Sitting on your ass at home on election day means you don't really care, and basically support the incumbent.

Anonymous said...

@12:11 Bernie. Has Ce Ce Gerlich ever run for office or been a consultant type?

Anonymous said...

@12:11 What about wives of politicians? This is the perfect opportunity for Frances Wolf, you know, the First Lady of PA ?

If there is a crack of opportunity in the legislation, the parties will run Trucks though it to control this "Commission".

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:24 Yes, she is an elected school board member.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:26, So offer an amendment to the bill, excluding wives, children, parents, brothers and sisters. The goal here is to make it nonpolitical.

Anonymous said...

By that picture of Boscola, I'd say she has african american in her genes, no?

Anonymous said...

Does Lisa know there actually is a bridge to New Jersey that is already built on I-78? It's in her district.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Of course she knows that. What she is saying is that if leaders could make her district a bridge, they would.

Anonymous said...

So basically we're saying that since we can't trust our elected officials to redistrict in a non-partisan way, we're going to let our horribly-partisan elected officials come up with a list of 60 supposed non-partisans, in order for the non-partisan Secretary of State to the choose the 11 supposed most-high non-partisans from that list?

And then when the 11 supposed most-high non-partisans draw the districts in a partisan manner that we don't like, our elected officials can say they're not responsible since they delegated the task to a commission?

No problems there.

But why stop (or start) with that subject? Personally, I'd like to see how such a non-partisan commission approach would work on issues like selling the state stores or pension reform first.

Peter J.Cochran said...

I always liked her like Bob Freeman ,besides she is my parents neighbor. I'm a hard 'R'

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:08, you have completely twisted this legislation which you obviously have not read because in the end what you really want is a corrupt system . Just admit it and stop making arguments that you know are ridiculous.

Peter J.Cochran said...

MS. BOSCOLA -NOW that Trump is in Mexico getting a deposit on his wall, The EASB take heed . I had stated earlier as Nellie Bly Easton as a shock puppet--after one of our family relative, that if Trump gets elected, he will send them back and EASD will not need the building or spend another 20 million dollars of TAX PAYER MONEY . The school is full of illegals.CUTE but illeagles. And --they don't need all the teachers on payroll. They are proceeding to spent our money anyway in contempt of the TAX PAYERS CITIZENS.

Peter J.Cochran said...

aNOM 5;38 haaaa

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's such thing as a independent commission. Perhaps I'm a defeatist. But so are those who support commissions because they've accepted that our elected officials don't have the fortitude - or can't be trusted - to complete these tasks. There's a reason politicians are more despised than diarrhea and herpes. They've earned their status well.

Anonymous said...

Just another liberal Democrat trick to disenfranchise white folks to placate their ethic voters.

Anonymous said...

yeah her district now crawled it's way from Whitehall and to Emmaus

Bernie O'Hare said...

The Power structure gave her democratic words in Lehigh County to protect Pat Browne. She explained that at the forum you missed but still comment about ignorantly