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Friday, September 02, 2016

Gerrymandering: How Our Elections Are Really Rigged - Part Four

Blogger's Note: Part One describes the dramatic increase in the use of both technological advances and hybrid SuperPACs with the goal of controlling Congress. Part Two details a bipartisan legislative fix proposed by State Senator Lisa Boscola and State Rep. David Parker. Part Three details the impact the gerrymander has had on government, and suggests what you can do to help achieve legislative reform. This final story tells you where the legislation stands, particularly in the Lehigh Valley delegation. 

State Senator Lisa Boscola is the prime sponsor of a senate bill (SB484) to eliminate gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by establishing an independent citizens' commission to draw the boundary lines for Congressional and state legislative seats every ten years. Republican Dave Parker, a State Representative from Monroe County, has offered a virtually identical bill in the state house (HB 1835).

A week ago, there were few local sponsors to this legislation. But following the gerrymandering forum at Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethlehem, that has changed dramatically.

The House Bill now has 22 cosponsors (10 Republicans and 12 Democrats). Locally, they include Bob Freeman, Mike Schlossberg and Steve Samuelson. Though Schlossberg is relatively new to the state house, both Samuelson and Freeman have been steadfast advocates of redistricting reform.

The Senate Bill has 12 cosponsors. Only two of them are Republican, but one of those two is Pat Browne, who chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Both bills are in their respective state government committees. Boscola stated that a redistricting reform bill was in a government reform committee, but went nowhere because Republican and Democratic leaders used proxies from absent members to kill the bill.

According to Common Cause's Barry Kauffman, Pennsylvania is considered by academics to be "one of the most reform-averse states in the nation." It took him 17 years to get an open records law enacted. "If they see citizens want to lead, they will follow," he said.

Boscola stated that the only real way to effect this change is by both targeting leaders and insisting that your legislator cosponsor the bill.

"Don't just ask a Senator or a Representative, 'Are you for this?' A lot of the time, they're gonna' say Yes. If they say Yes, then say to them, "Cosponsor that bill. I want to know that you're really supportive.'" ... They'll say Yes because they know this bill isn't coming up for a vote. So they can hide. But once you put your name on a bill, you're not hiding anymore. You're supportive, because you're on the record."

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

No Marcia Hahn co-sponsor?

Anonymous said...

Or Emrick

Anonymous said...

If they have enough do nothings, their system is working as designed...

Anonymous said...

Both parties are only in it for themselves.
End of story.

Anonymous said...

Or Simmons, Day or Mackenzie.

Anonymous said...

Some observations and constructive criticism.

I oppose gerrymandering for political, racial and communities of interest. Simply, I believe that proposed election districts should be compact and respect as much as possible municipal boundaries.

Political and racial considerations are a no brainier. Communities of interest create the biggest problem. A lot of people believe that the Lehigh Valley should have its own congressional seat. Nice thought, but if the powers to be were to accommodate such thinking the US House would have to be expanded by 200 seats to match all the metropolitan districts and that is before one even considers rural districts.

I have seen computer models that reapportion Pennsylvania congressional districts on the basis of compactness, retaining municipal boundaries and respecting racial demographics. In all cases, the Lehigh Valley is split into several districts while the basic objectives are retained for the entire state.

The reason I call attention to this issue is when districts were proposed as a result of the 2000 census, Boscola challenged those districts insisting that they were drawn on the basis of political parties. We do not know if that was the case. The problem that confronted those in charge of reapportionment was keeping municipalities in tact. If that was not the objective then, Bethlehem, Easton and Allentown would have been divided among multiple election districts eliminating the democratic majorities significantly. I think that many of our elected representatives had aspirations for congress and the split up of the Lehigh Valley made those thoughts unattainable.

A bi partisan commission sounds great, but without simple objectives, it will move to protect communities of interest and have the same outcome as political gerrymandering: in some locations your next door neighbor will be voting for someone else. I admit that Easton being lumped in with Montgomery county in the last reappointment made little sense. Such a move fails the compactness test. On the other hand, Easton was not split among multiple districts. Your instructions to such a commission are so important, and I have not heard one yet.

Anonymous said...

first off end the bullshit and make these positions part time as they were intended. Term limits etc.... and we will rid us of low life slug bottom feeders like EMRICK

Anonymous said...

I can tell by all these comments about ending gerrymandering that the democrats are burning the keys of their laptops by typing all of this garbage. I would never listen to this self serving progressive agenda.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:00, "A bi partisan commission sounds great, but without simple objectives, it will move to protect communities of interest"

That is precisely what the constitution requires. So you would be criticizing the commission for following the Constitution. Compactness and communities of interest. No politics. Take a look at Charlie Dent's district, the I-78 district. Do you think he's really happy about that? Or Lou Barletta, the I-81 Congressman? This is the exact opposite of communities of interest and compactness.

Bernie O'Hare said...

". I would never listen to this self serving progressive agenda."

You mean, follow the constitution? Ronald Reagan himself said it is wrong when the politicians pick the voters. Is he too "progressive" for you?

Anonymous said...

To be fair, Schweyer and McNeill are on another bill on redistrict. It has a different approach. Part of legislating would combine the best elements of the different proposals and eliminate the worst.
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/bill_history.cfm?syear=2015&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1637

Anonymous said...

Why change a process that has worked well for nearly two centuries ?

Anonymous said...

"But "community of interest" is an incredibly squishy term. You can define it pretty much however you want. As I wrote in 2014, if you're a politician in search of a figleaf justification for putting voters from disparate corners of the state into the same congressional district, you can always find one. Communities of interest are a great ideal, but in practice they're so fuzzy that they open the door to all manner of redistricting shenanigans, as we've seen. "From the Washington post. It creates the same problem as political parties. Without definition, you will not do much better and by the way there is no disagreement that the current congressional districts are an abomination. That's not the issue. You need directions and policy for this proposed commission to work. Otherwise you end up with the same

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Why change a process that has worked well for nearly two centuries ?"

I assume sarcasm is intended here.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the democratic progressives would be willing to give up their power if they were the majority in the Pennsylvania legislature ?

I doubt it.

But when the Republicans control the process, the cry comes out from the left for "reform!!!!"

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I wonder if the democratic progressives would be willing to give up their power if they were the majority in the Pennsylvania legislature ?"

They would be just as unwilling to budge. That is no justification for doing the wrong thing, which has had a disastrous impact on our representative democracy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To be fair, Schweyer and McNeill are on another bill on redistrict. It has a different approach. Part of legislating would combine the best elements of the different proposals and eliminate the worst. "

That bill is a partisan bill going nowhere. They need to sign on to a biartisan bill that has had one hearing.

Anonymous said...

Then you're beating a dead horse Bernie. Just look at how Wolf and the legislature get along. The legislature passes a budget resolution (note, not a budget, but just a resolution of what should be budgeted) and Wolf vetoes it every time.

Ron Beitler said...

@11:18 - Term limits yes, but part time. . . no. But, eliminate the pension. I am ok with requiring a full time commitment. Actually, I prefer it. We're too big a state geographically and voters to used to the constituent services provided by legislators that it should remain a full time job supported by staffed district offices. (I do think the number of districts should be reduced)

The problem is those that see Harrisburg as a career option. Term limits + eliminating the pension removes that career option, defangs monied special interests on BOTH sides of the aisle and discourages complacency.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
That hat on the capitol, is it a nue gang colour or what?!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Gotta' admit, I don't get the hat.

Anonymous said...

Bring back paper ballots...electronic voting machines are rigged. Problem solved

Anonymous said...

http://votingmachines.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000269

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Or Simmons, Day or Mackenzie."

Justin Simmons is now a cosponsor. I'll have more on Monday. Since last week,when this forum was first held, four LV state representatives have signed on. So those of you who claim they are wasting their time or that i am "beating a dead horse," think again.

Carol Kuniholm said...

There are bipartisan groups around the country working on this issue. And while some legislators will never give up the power to draw their own maps and guaranteed their own continued incumbency, there are many legislators - in both houses and both sides of the aisle - who got into politics to serve the public good and feel that's not possible with things as they are. Those legislators are eager to see reform. In any context there are some who are for their own agendas, some courageously for the public good, and those in the middle, the "persuadables." Our job as voters is to persuade the persuadables that we want functional government that represents the people. You can follow this issue at FairDistrictsPA.com or, on Twitter, @FairDistrictsPA.

Dan Markley said...

Thanks for bringing this very important topic to a local focus.
Even with a bipartisan/nonpartisan committee, the wasted vote affect will always be an issue. The wasted vote affect is the root of why gerrymandering works. No matter how the districts are drawn, many people will not have someone fairly or accurately representing them.

PAL representation is an alternative that, though more complex, more fairly yields the goal of a representative democracy.
PAL Representation
It combines transfer voting, getting rid of the spoiler candidate problems (another symptom caused by the wasted vote affect), with multi-district representation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I like it.