Gerrymandering is the real election fraud

Today I needed to remember where congressional district 7 is. Over there to the east of West Chester, right? Right. I looked it up. But it’s also south, west and north of West Chester.

us-congress-pa-07-on-map

On this map of the local districts, the green in the upper right quadrant is part of the 6th district. The blue that meanders around its edges is part of the 7th district. The green projection from Oxford to Coatesville belongs to the 16th district.

And so it goes on all sides: The 6th district sticks its neck out north to Kutztown and west to Lebanon. The left lobe of district 7 reaches almost to Reading and the right lobe beyond King of Prussia; those two parts are linked by a slender corridor between Coatesville and Downington. The 16th district extends from our area all the way to the Susquehanna River and north to Reading.

What mental wing housed the person who designed these districts? Sad to say, it’s the Pennsylvania General Assembly, that is, our elected officials in Harrisburg.

Their madness has inspired some people’s creative side. In a contest called by Chesco state senator Andy Dinniman (D-19), the winning title for CD 7 was “Bullwinkle J. Moose,” after a children’s cartoon character of that name.

bullwinkle-cd-7

The madness of gerrymandering, however, is all in the self-interest of the perpetrators. After the Tea Party propelled the Republican party to a big majority in both the State Senate and House on 2010, their party forced these districts through Harrisburg, violating all norms of community and all convenience of legislators, candidates, and voters. Their point was to push as many Democrats as possible into a few districts and give the Republicans winning margins in the rest. It worked brilliantly: the state has a lot more registered Democrats, but a lot more Republicans elected to Harrisburg and Washington.

This is not just politics as usual. It has risen to the level of anti-American election rigging, to use a term popularized this year on both the left and the right. Non-existent “voter impersonation fraud” is used as an excuse to disenfranchise millions of Americans (miraculously, that effort was beaten back in our own state, but will corrupt outcomes in many others) and meanwhile, gerrymandering makes a mockery of what should be an honest, open effort to determine the will of the people. You know, “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” as the first Republican president phrased it long ago.

The people in Harrisburg who put through this ignoble scheme should be ashamed of themselves. I hope they will soon have a lot of free time in which to repent.

What’s to be done? The two major parties need to come to approximate parity in Harrisburg before the next redrawing of boundaries, after the census of 2020. It would be helpful if a few Libertarians and Greens joined the mix and induced the others to see the folly of trying to undo democratic representation for the sake of party interests and personal careers. Then, “our” state government could change redistricting to a non-partisan process that would draw all districts as compactly (and non-creatively) as possible and split up the fewest municipalities possible.

Too much to dream for? Not for me.

The public interest group Common Cause has been trying to reform Pennsylvania redistricting since 1980. In 2015 a few legislators formed a working group to work on reform. I wish them luck. For the sake of public confidence in our government, we must end, as soon as possible, the massive election fraud of gerrymandering.

PS 10/21/16: for more PA background, see the comment and reply below. For the history of gerrymandering, see Elizabeth Kolbert, “Drawing the Line: How redistricting turned America from blue to red,” The New Yorker, 6/27/16. Kolbert’s examples circle around Pennsylvania, most notably (referring to after the 2010 census):

The new Republican majority “packed” blue-leaning voters into a handful of districts around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Then it “cracked” the rest into districts that tilted red.

The original gerrymander—named for Massachusetts’ ninth governor, Elbridge Gerry—was a sinuous blob that wound around Boston. (“The Gerry-Mander: A new species of Monster” read the headline over a cartoon of the district that ran in the March 26, 1812, edition of the Boston Gazette.) Among the misshapen districts to emerge from Pennsylvania’s 2011 redistricting plan is one Daley describes as looking “like a horned antelope barrelling down a hill on a sled.” Another has been compared to Donald Duck kicking Goofy in the groin. So skillfully were the lines drawn that in 2012—when President Obama carried Pennsylvania by three hundred thousand votes and the state’s Democratic congressional candidates collectively outpolled their G.O.P. rivals by nearly a hundred thousand votes—Republicans still won thirteen of Pennsylvania’s eighteen seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Arguably the most distorted map in the country” is how one researcher described the Pennsylvania districts. “In Pennsylvania, the Gerrymander of the Decade?” the Web site Real Clear Politics asked….

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About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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4 Responses to Gerrymandering is the real election fraud

  1. Howard Jones says:

    so why has the state Democratic committee not had the political gumption to challenge this obviously unconstitutional in the Commonwealth’s courts?

    • Actually, the Democratss went to court to try to overturn the previous Republican gerrymander of PA congressional seats, after the 2000 census. Ultimately, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of that redistricting in Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004). The majority opinion, written by the late Justice Scalia, held that there were no clear standards (such as fairness) to overturn a gerrymander. The US Supreme Court court might or not rule differently today; perhaps a case will come back to it if a ninth justice is ever appointed.

      The US constitution provides little help against partisan gerrymandering. But on the state level, a suit after the 2011 redistricting was on firmer ground, since the PA state constitution says:

      “Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district.”

      That was a big deal in West Chester, which was slated to be split between two PA House districts. Several of us were appellants in a suit that was presented in Harrisburg by a delegation led by Mayor Comitta. Various suits went forward together and in 2012 the PA Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs and overturned the 2011 gerrymander.

      The Republican legislature then pushed through a second, marginally less outrageous redistricting, which the PA Supreme Court upheld in 2013, Those are the boundaries in effect from the 2014 election through the 2020 election. Then, we’ll see.

      For more background, see introductory material and attorney Sam Stretton’s analysis at http://chescodems.org/atty-sam-stretton-on-pa-house-and-senate-redistricting/.

  2. Pingback: Gerrymandering is the real election fraud — politicswestchesterview | An Alchemist's Journey....

  3. Susan says:

    Are you following Fair Districts PA? If not, you will see what efforts are currently taking place, at http://www.fairdistrictspa.com/.

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