Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Is State Redistricting Yet Another Gerrymander?

Pennsylvania's Reapportionment Commission has proposed a preliminary plan for the redistricting of state house and senate seats. In contrast to what happened the last time, there's a lot of transparency this time. The plan is posted here, and even includes maps. Moreover, you can submit your own exceptions to either the house or senate plans. The plan is opposed by Lisa Boscola, a Democratic State Senator, and Dean Browning, a well-known Lehigh County Republican. This might be a good thing.

Boscola has shared her views with Lehigh Valley Live. In essence, she complains that the lines are drawn in a way to protect each party's power. She adds that the commission members are from western Pa of Philly and have no understanding of the Lehigh Valley's unique needs.

Browning has made his views known to the Commission. He's more nuanced. Here's what he says: 

First, let me say that I'm very active in the local Lehigh County Republican Committee. However, I do believe that we are best served when our representatives are elected from districts that are relatively compact and where municipalities/townships are kept intact.

On that last point, it has always irritated me that the township where I live (South Whitehall) is split between three (3) different State Representatives, none of whom have South Whitehall Township as their top priority. For example, Ryan Makenzie has Lower Mac as his locus, Zach Mako has Northampton County as his locus and Mike Schlossberg (even though he recently moved to South Whitehall) has Allentown as his locus. While the newly released State Rep map corrects that and puts all of South Whitehall in one district, it does so by splitting other municipalities/townships across Lehigh County.

Some examples are as follows:

Allentown would be covered by three (3) Reps. instead of two (2). While this might make sense given Allentown's size (68,000 voters), it doesn't make sense that a much smaller Salisbury Township and School District (9,800 voters) is also split between three (3) Reps.

Upper Macungie goes from one (1) Rep to two (2) Reps; one of whom still would have Allentown as their locus.

North Whitehall is split and residents in North Whitehall 4 (a suburban/rural area) would be represented by someone who has West Bethlehem (commercial/city) as part of their district.

Lynn Township (a rural, farming community in the northwest part of Lehigh County) would be lumped in with Lower Macungie commercial/suburban).

Residents in the southwestern part of Lehigh County would have a Rep who would also be representing parts of Northampton and parts of Berks County.

It is easy to see why this map passed 3-2 along party lines as it is still gerrymandered but just in the other direction.

If the goal is compact districts that minimize splitting municipalities/townships (which was one of the main stated objectives for the redistricting commission) then the maps should reflect that!

Otherwise, gerrymandering is gerrymandering is gerrymandering.

My own take is that, for the most part, this is more of an incumbent protection than a reapportionment plan. This is clear in Lehigh County. where Pat Browne's district looks like Pacman the way it goes into Berks County. Clearly the Senate maps in Berks and Lehigh County were drawn to make it easier for Browne and Republican Judy Schwank o win re-election.  In Lehigh County. Senator Pat Browne went from a district that was 53% D / 45% R to one that is the reverse - 45% D / 53% R.  Meanwhile Senator Judy Schwank in Berks just got a little safer as her district went from 52% D / 45% R to 54% D / 43% R.

There are some exceptions to this incumbent protection plan. 

Jean McNeill's (133) seat has become more competitive. She loses Fountain Hill and the Democratic portions of Salisbury Tp while gaining the Republican parts of Whitehall and South Whitehall.

Peter Schweyer (22) is in trouble. Fountain Hill and part of Salisbury have been added to his district. If a Latino runs, he loses. If two Latinos run, he wins. Jose Rosado lives in Fountain Hill.   


Anonymous said...

Term limit them all. The only time they agree is when they take care of each other's jobs.

Anonymous said...

An incumbent protection plan? That would be the LAST thing we need here, and elsewhere, in our declining America. It’s very clear, remaining in office for more than a couple terms leads to a wrong sense of purpose for far too many in position. This is more than proven in federal and state government. What a mess has been made there!

Like milk cartons, politicians need a “SELL BY” date to ensure quality for the consumer.

Anonymous said...

No question the Senate map was crafted to protect Pat Browne, but Boscola is really complaining because her district became much more competitive. BTW, Judy Schwank is a Democrat.

Anonymous said...

Of course it is Bernie. The thing politicians and bureaucrats focus on most intently is self-preservation. And they love telling you that they're not, but the other guy is.

The days of "public service" are long gone.

Anonymous said...

Our government is corrupt on all levels and that is a fact that cannot be disputed.

Anonymous said...

Only way to clean up our government is to start over--first get rid of all people in government elected and non elected -second must have term limits-elected and non elected-third all money in the lobby world must be illegal very very stiff penalties for those who abuse it--jail time 30 years or more--I realize this will never happen as a result our country will never be any good again.

Anonymous said...

NO redistricting should take effect until all the people who decide on it are out of office.

Carve the state up by township groups and be done with it. And make it the law that township cannot be split and no county can be split.

Also make it a law that a politician must live in a township or county for 3 years or they cannot run for office in that zone. Also include in the law that any politician that votes to make a redistricting change must not run again for any political office ever. And cannot ever work in any other governmental capacity nor can they work for any organization which has any governmental impact or support.

And make it the law that a politician must live in the state for 5 years before they can represent the state in any governmental way.

Too many politicians don't give a crap about anyone other then their own pockets and the people who line the pockets of them or their families and friends.

Anonymous said...

Just another person to run cover for the mail in ballots, the more the merrier. Merry Christmas from the north pole!

Anonymous said...

Letting politicians draw the boundaries is a complete and total conflict of interest.

There is no such thing as a "perfect map" but...

Compact and contiguous should be the primary goal. Breaking up counties, towns/boros, school districts, and precincts should be avoided, but its bound to happen to make things balanced number wise.

In the end, making any district easier for incumbents and/or parties is not in the best interest of the state and its citizens. It just encourages more extreme candidates to run and get elected, where they ultimately fail to do anything beyond posture and pose thru meaningless legislation and useless resolutions.

Anonymous said...

Agree. This is a bipartisan incumbent (and retirement) protection plan. They're able to see eye to eye very clearly when their cushy jobs and easy money are at risk. The purpose is to eliminate those unpredictable toss-up districts that incumbents simply despise. Those races cost money that pols otherwise get to pocket at the end of the dirty game. PA has the most bipartisan money grabbing legislature in the country. They are truly desperate wards of the state because they're not very employable in the real world.

Anonymous said...

This country is in big trouble.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 6:45. PM. It’s time for most Americans to finally acknowledge many of the “conspiracy theories” they were so quick to dismiss have proven to be true. America has be taken down by misinformed, misguided forces within. Even worse, our current politicians are in denial, corrupt, or too weak to object.

We need to do OUR part, though, in turning this around. That is, ignore corporate news media and vote OUT a great many incumbent politicians who have failed us. Seriously, there is no one in office now that is irreplaceable.

Anonymous said...

Make it a requirement that a politician must live within the boundaries of a jurisdiction to represent the government on a local level. Also make it a law that they must live within those boundaries for a minimum of 2 years or they cannot run for any political local office. To represent us on a state level they must live with in the jurisdiction for a minimum of 5 years. Make it also the law that any redistricting does not take effect until the politicians that it effects have been in office for a full term. Thereby it will not take effect until after the next election 2 or 4 years away.

Anonymous said...

When you look at those who are rewriting the map they are the ones that are the most insecure. And who knows what type of illegalities and grifting and other pocket lining BS.

Anonymous said...

I did read that Ryan MacKenzie and Gary Day would be in the same district. I wonder if this is why Ryan may run for Congress.