gerrymandering

A panel of federal judges upheld the Pennsylvania congressional district map as constitutional in a 2-1 split decision in a Philadelphia court today.

In the case, a group of Pennsylvania voters challenged the state's map claiming it was an illegal partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans over Democrats. They claimed it undermined the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In his majority opinion, Chief Judge D. Brook Smiths wrote: 

The city of Reading has long felt out of place on the U.S. congressional map.
Keystone Crossroads

Reading Mayor Wally Scott, a Democrat, has decided to focus on things he can change without relying on higher levels of government.

“I don’t have any reason to need them for anything,” he said.

So far his priorities have boiled down to four things: trash, parking, water and police.

Advocates for fair districting
Katie Meyer / WITF

In most states, the legislature is in charge of designing congressional and state voting districts.

Pennsylvania isn’t unique in that respect.

But some say the commonwealth is home to some of the nation’s starkest examples of gerrymandering — where the shape of a voting district is manipulated to produce the outcome desired by the party in charge.

County Commissioners and advocates spoke in front of county courthouse in Lock Haven
Min Xian / WPSU

Advocacy group Fair Districts PA announced on Thursday that Clinton County is the first in the state to get all of its municipalities and county commissioners to pass resolutions in support of redistricting reform. The group believes momentum to end gerrymandering is growing.

The resolutions demand a fair way to draw legislative district lines and to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. Twenty-nine municipalities as well as the county commissioners supported reform.

A map of the 7th congressional district. Gerrymandering has divided the communities of the 7th congressional district in Montgomery and Chester counties. The district incorporates most of Delaware County and portions of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lanc
Dan Gleiter / PennLive.com

What’s it feel like to live along the border of one of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the U.S.?

Just ask Bonnie Marcus and Bill Van Wie, who live at Kendall Crosslands, a picturesque retirement community in Chester County.

“Have you seen what we look like? We’re a joke,” said Marcus, a Democratic poll worker who gathered a group of neighbors at the community center to talk gerrymandering.

“I don’t think there’s a way they can make it worse,” Van Wie chimed in.

Fair District PA volunteer spoke outside Corman's office
Min Xian / WPSU

Fair Districts PA delivered postcards collected from constituents to State Senator Jake Corman’s office in Bellefonte on Thursday, urging the Republican majority leader to to pass legislation to reform the redistricting process in Pennsylvania.

About 25 members and supporters of Fair Districts PA gathered in the parking lot outside Corman’s office with over 500 postcards stapled onto a giant board.

“The districting process in Pennsylvania is rigged and we need to stop that,” said Toby Short, a volunteer for the advocacy group.

When you have a question about voting, polling places or legislative districts in Centre County, a good place to start is the Elections Office. So, that’s where I began my quest to find the place in the State College area where three state legislative districts come together.

After rolling out a detailed map, Joyce McKinley, director of elections in Centre County, tries to pinpoint the spot.

“The 81st legislative district. It’s surrounded by the 77th and the 171st. That’s Zurich Road and Knob Hill Road, and this is Circleville Road.”

A proposed bill is looking to change how Pennsylvania draws its legislative and congressional districts

The bill’s sponsor, Monroe County Republican David Parker said the measure would cut down on gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is prevalent in Pennsylvania—it’s when legislative maps are drawn to benefit a political party.

Parker said the ultimate results don’t benefit constituents.

“When these districts become so large and kind of snake around and are odd shapes, it’s difficult for them to truly represent everybody in the whole district,” he said.