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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gerrymandering Forum at Nazareth High School on Thursday

On Wednesday night, at 7 pm, there will be a presentationon gerrymandering by State Rep. Steve Samuelson and Fair District Pa'sFritz Walker at Nazareth High School. Details are in the flyer above. I'd love to go, but I'll be at summer basketball.

Last year, I presented you with a four-part series called "Gerrymandering: How Our Elections are Really Rigged." (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). I was motivated by a presentation at Bethlehem's Unitarian Universalist Church attended by over 100 people on a hot August Friday night. The Pennsylvania League of Women Voters teamed up with Fair District Pa to make a compelling case for redistricting reform. The effort never made it to a vote in the land of midnight payraises, but this good government reform is really picking up a lot of steam.

Locally, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, Bethlehem Township, Easton, Whitehall Township and Lower Macungie Township have all adopted resolutions supporting the creation of an independent body to draw district lines. That's infinitely preferable to the the current system, in which politicians choose who will be voting for them.

In some states, Democrats oppose gerrymander reform because they are in control and have no desire to see that change. Here in Pa, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate have been the major stumbling block because they understandably want to protect their majority.

This thinking is short-sighted. Though the state legislature is undeniably Republican, the state Supreme Court is now undeniably Democratic. The Court can stop Republicans from gerrymandering. But there's a danger that a Democratic court could gerrymander, too. Some enlightened Republicans, like State Senators Mario Scavello and Pat Browne, understand that this is a sword that can cut both ways. But there are a number of local Republican State Reps who must be used to dealing with much duller instruments.

These Republicans are Gary Day, Zach Mako, Marcia Hahn, Joe Emrick and Ryan Mackenzie. They all prefer listening to House leaders over the voters.

In January, I bumped into Zach Mako at the elections office. At that time, he promised me he would sponsor this legislation. Is it too much for me to expect him to keep his word?


Anonymous said...

Who wins the elections controls the map making. Politics 101. That's how things are and it's usually the party out of power is the one who wants "reform".

Not gong to happen.

Anonymous said...

The key word is "independent", as we all know, there is no such thing.

Anonymous said...

So far commenters seem woefully uninformed about both the topic and the proposed solution. This is a BIPARTISAN sponsored bill to fix what has made PA one of the worst for entrenched incumbencies. But hey, if you think our dysfunctional legislature is delivering for us keep your heads in the sand!

Bernie O'Hare said...

While people are uninformed, so are you. This event is being hosted in part by the Democratic Women of Nazareth. No political party should be associated with this effort in any way, and I am disappointed to see their name added to what really has to bebipartisan to succeed.

Jamie Kelton said...

I agree with that first poster. Gerrymandering is viewed as part of the spoils of victory by whomever controls the legislature. You might as well ask everyone to run as non-partisan. There are powerful forces in each party that will insure this utopian dream simply won't happen.

Anonymous said...

^ This sentiment just blows my mind. If the people who win elections get to redraw the lines so they'll keep winning, doesn't that defeat the purpose of elections? This should not be a partisan issue.

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

Gerrymandering is over two centuries old in the US. However, I think the hyper-partisanship and party polarization that has grown the past 20 years is what is getting folks to more seriously consider redistricting reform. The threat of primary challenges and outside money targeting legislators who dare to compromise/negotiate (AKA, govern) for the good of the majority of the nation is all the more powerful the more gerrymandered a district is. I am too cynical to believe any changes won't eventually be gamed out and manipulated by the parties, but that doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands, conceding that it is what it is, and do nothing. Probably the most "independent" solution would be to take the human element out, and let a computer programmed to solely look at population numbers alone divide the state in as geometrically grid-like districts as possible without regard to party registrations/municipal-County boundaries/media markets, etc. Some "natural constituencies" might get disrupted, but in the big picture would increase the chance of real competition in elections. Of course, this will never happen.

Re the party polarization, personally, after 35 years being party-registered I have come to the point of re-registering as "none (no affiliation)".

Unknown said...

As one of the many organizers of the Nazareth Gerrymandering Event - Does Your Vote Count, let me first say THANK YOU for helping us to publicize this event.

It is important that you and your readers be aware that we made every effort to make this event (which was very successful, with around 75-80 attendees on a Wednesday evening in July in Nazareth) non-partisan. Here is a partial list of what team members did to reach out to all community members in the Nazareth area:
-Invited, via telephone and letter the Northampton County Republican party to organize this event with us
-Invited, via email, telephone and/or letter - Various Women's Republican groups throughout Northampton County, including County Council members.
-Put flyers up in community areas frequented by all community members (local stores, the library, etc)
-Handed out flyers to all members of the community during Nazareth Day and for the entirety of the Plainfield Township Farmer's fair
-Put flyer's in community members's doors throughout the Upper Nazareth, Nazareth, and surrounding areas, without regard to political affiliation
-Invited, by email, telephone and letter, all Republican Representatives in the Nazareth Area, including Rep's Marcia Hahn, Joe Emrick and Senator Mario Scavello. I understand that the Senator needed to be in Harrisburg. He did respond and sent regrets but enthusiastic support of the effort (he is a co-sponsor of the Senate Bill to change the redistricting process to a citizen's committee).

No team member received a response from any other Republican group or Representative. I, as a concerned citizen, along with Fairdistrictspa are open to organizing another event at the convenience of any Republican individual or group that is willing to spearhead one. We are actively trying to reach out to all members of the community in the Nazareth area and vicinity about this vitally important issue.

Thank you,
Jeanie Morgano, PsyD

Bernie O'Hare said...

My guess is that you did not try very hard. Republican Peg Ferraro lives in Upper Naz and has for at least 10 years been a vocal advocate of gerrymander reform. NorCo Council,which is 7-2 GOP, adopted a resolution supporting gerrymander reform. If you wish to be perceived as nonpartisan, then be nonpartisan. Do not allow a partisan organization to sponsor your event. That was a mistake.