Monday’s CDT featured a national story about “fixing gerrymandering” that misled readers about gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. The state Supreme Court did not rule that our congressional boundaries violate the state constitution “by giving Republicans more districts than the partisan split of the state should allow.” Rather, the court threw out our congressional districts because they “clearly, plainly and palpably” violate constitutional provisions requiring compact, contiguous districts that “do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population. ...” For example, the Pa. 7th District (“Goofy Kicking Donald”) is a national laughing-stock that “clearly, plainly and palpably” violates these requirements.
The article also suggested that little can be done about gerrymandering because, as illustrated by a new study showing that there are many reasonable ways of drawing boundaries, “(it’s) difficult to say what districts should look like.” The need for discretion and weighing alternatives is exactly why Pennsylvanians do not want to continue leaving decisions about districts to five top Republicans and Democrats to make in secret, with no representation of independents, Libertarians or others. A majority of state representatives, a third of state senators, and more than 22,000 petition-signers support nonpartisan House Bill 722 and Senate Bill 22 to transfer control over district boundaries to an independent citizens’ commission with open meetings and transparent decision-making. Furthermore, the citizens’ commission would not be allowed to make use of detailed election data that enable partisan gerrymandering.
Pam Short, State College