Opinion Piece | We’ve Been Gerrymandered | Bracken Babula

In the 1950’s, Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district was drawn with the same boundaries as Delaware County. Sixty years later, the district now has the distinct honor of being one of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. Congressman Patrick Meehan currently represents a district that includes five counties, and is regrettably referred to as “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”

Gerrymandering is the act of manipulating political district boundaries in order to favor a party or class. The word originated in Massachusetts in 1812, after Governor Gerry redrew districts to benefit his political party, creating a district with the remarkable likeness of a salamander. Since then gerrymandering has extended across the country, disenfranchising voters from Maine to California.

Our local area is a nexus for some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. Local residents may be represented in D.C. by Congressman Pat Meehan, Brendan Boyle or Dwight Evans. At the state level, you are likely represented by Senator Vincent Hughes, whose district extends from Upper Dublin to West Philadelphia. But if you live in West Conshohocken or west of Butler Pike, you are represented in Harrisburg by Senator Daylin Leach. Gerrymandering comes in many forms, including “cracking” or spreading voters of a particular party across districts, and “packing” or concentrating voters of a particular party into a district.

Democrats and Republicans are both at fault for gerrymandering. In Pennsylvania redistricting is a strictly political process, with a five-person commission of state legislators drawing the maps after the decennial census. The maps were drawn after 2010 by a Republican-controlled commission, and are likely to be drawn after 2020 by a Democrat-controlled commission. Given the motivation to redraw maps for political benefit, it is clear that we need an independent commission in Pennsylvania to ensure every vote counts.

Whitemarsh Township and West Conshohocken have both voted in favor of a resolution to support an independent citizen’s commission for redistricting in Pennsylvania. This resolution supports Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722, which are a first step to ending gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. If the current proposal is approved by ballot referendum, it would create a commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and three Independents (none of which have recently held elected office).

We need to make our voice heard in Harrisburg, and let them know that voters choose their politicians, not the other way around. Call your local senator and representative today and tell them to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by supporting an independent commission.

We deserve fair representation in D.C. and in Harrisburg. Our current system of redistricting robs us of fair elections by distorting district boundaries and disenfranchising voters. We must remove politics from the redistricting process, and institute a fully transparent independent redistricting commission.

Submitted by Bracken Babula.

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