ChesterNewMatterWinter2017 - 30
How a Citizens Commission Can End
Gerrymandering, Return Sanity to our
Political Process and Even Improve
By Theresa Martin Golding , Esquire
t has famously been described as Goofy kicking
Donald Duck. Is it a cartoon drawing? A Rorschach
inkblot test? No, it's Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional
District, one of the most gerrymandered congressional
districts in the country. It stretches, dips, cuts, and curves
in a highly contorted fashion over five separate counties,
lumping together Pennsylvania voters from the Maryland
border with voters north of Reading and those living east
of Blue Bell.
Is there a reason anyone should care? Haven't
politicians been engaging in gerrymandering since
Eldridge Gerry, its namesake, approved a salamander
shaped district in Massachusetts back in 1812? Whether
you are a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent,
there is plenty of reason to care.
Competitive Elections Create
With the advent of mapping technologies and voter
sorting software, partisan legislators now use very precise
tools to draw the district lines around the voters that they
want, creating exceptionally safe seats. When legislators
are in safe seats, they have no incentive to work with
their colleagues across the aisle or even to address the
concerns of constituents. Elections are not competitive
and are usually decided in the low-voter-turnout
primaries. In 2016, in a shocking 57% of Pennsylvania
state house general election races, there was just one
person on the ballot. The opposition party did not even
field a candidate. Over 91% of races had an incumbent
running for reelection and 86% of races had no primary
opponent. Pennsylvania voters feel disenfranchised,
and rightly so.
Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states
in the country - and there are numbers to prove it.
The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and
policy institute dedicated to improving our democracy,
analyzed the 2012, 2014 and 2016 congressional elections
using three separate quantitative measures of partisan
bias.1 That quantitative analysis found Pennsylvania to
be one of three states with consistently extreme levels of
partisan bias.2 The Brennan Center considers this level of
gerrymandering to be an alarming threat to democracy.3
Brennan Center for Justice, Extreme Maps, published May 2017 (Efficiency Gap Analysis, Seats-to-Votes Curve Analysis and Means-Median Difference Analysis).
Id. at page 15.
Id. at page 1.
30 | New Matter