Tag Archives: redistricting

Voices of Fair Districts PA: Democracy in Action

by email, 7/14/17

The news is full of decisions pushed forward in both Harrisburg and DC with little reference to voters’ wishes. While polls may show an overwhelming number of voters in support or opposition of specific legislation, we continue to see leaders more interested in protecting special interests than in listening to constituents.

Last week we posted a video highlighting a few of the more than 200 informational meetings we’ve held in PA since January. We’re proud to be a non-partisan, volunteer-led organization, with supporters and volunteers from across the state and across the political spectrum. Take a look at Voices of Fair Districts PA, share it, and think about who you could invite to come watch it with you some summer evening. (And check the other videos on our Fair Districts PA Youtube channel. There’s plenty of good information to share).

We know that when election maps are drawn by partly leaders to protect their jobs and their party, voters AND communities lose their voice. Gerrymandering has diluted the representation of Pennsylvania municipalities and counties, allowing legislators to ignore local concerns while pursuing the agendas of outside interests. School districts and communities are chopped up to provide safe districts for incumbents and to allow party leaders to maintain political control. The leaders who draw the lines benefit while PA voters, communities and local economies are harmed.

Across the state, we have volunteers making this case in borough halls and county seats. They are presenting resolutions to municipal and county governing bodies and advocating for their passage. The resolutions call for fair, transparent and impartial redistricting done by an independent citizens commission.

From Erie to Bethlehem and from small boroughs to larger counties, citizens are demanding change. Fair Districts volunteers are flooding municipal meetings that they may never have attended before and engaging in their local communities. These volunteers educate and inform their local governments with presentations, data and sometimes petition signatures and email campaigns, supporting efforts to pass a resolution. This is true democracy in action!

Each resolution calls for a copy to be sent to the respective elected officials and party leaders. This means that a legislator is held accountable to his or her constituents to pass Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722 to put the redistricting power in the hands of an independent citizens commission.

To date, 9 counties and more than 60 municipalities have passed resolutions and there are dozens more resolutions already in progress.

If no resolution has been passed or is in progress in your own county or municipality, you can visit our Fair Districts PA Resolutions page and fill out the “Get started with a local resolution” form (make sure to check the resolutions list first). Our State Coordinator for Resolutions, Jamie Mogil, will contact you with guidelines and materials and connect you with other Fair Districts PA volunteers in your area.

This is a genuinely grassroots effort. We’ve been told, many many times, that party leaders in Pennsylvania will never give up power without an outcry from citizens – all kinds of citizens – who believe democracy is bigger than any one party, and who insist that our leaders should serve all of us, not just their biggest donors.

We are funded by you and people like you.

And we’re counting on you to help us make the case for reform, in your townships, counties and in Harrisburg as well.

Thank you for being part of this work.

Carol Kuniholm
Fair Districts PA

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Does Representation Matter to Me?

by Amanda Holt, 3/8/12

Why care about representation? It seems like an obscure issue, far removed from the everyday life of citizens. The reality is that representation stands at the core of our liberty, closely intertwined into our daily activities. A journey back in time emphasizes this reality.

It is the early 1770s. The cry, “Taxation without representation” is fanning the flame of independence in the Colonies. Many believe it is wrong for a people to be taxed without having any say in the matter.

Eventually, the Colonies sever all ties with England and form a new government based on a representative society, with careful checks and balances incorporated within the system to avoid any one person or group gaining too much power.

In Pennsylvania’s first Constitution, the ground work was laid for equal representation that was both proportional to population and based on political subdivisions (Chapter 2 Sect 17). Citizens were elected by counties and cities to represent the interests of their constituents. They were to be “persons most noted for wisdom and virtue” (Chapter 2 Section 7) who gave constant regard to the point:

“That a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles, and a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality are absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty, and keep a government free” (Chapter 1 Right 14).

Everyone wants to enjoy the blessings of liberty, but few make the connection to representation. At the most basic level, if a person cares about their taxes, they should follow in the steps of our founders and care about who is speaking on their behalf in the state capital.

Many other issues addressed at a state level touch close to home – like education, roads, and safety. When Pennsylvanians gather to discuss these state issues, who will speak on your behalf?

The boundaries of districts (determined by redistricting) define how you will be represented. Will your community be given a united voice or fragmented into little pieces and left with the effect of having no say?…

continue reading at Amanda Holt

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Filed under Election rights and laws, History

Redistricting – Our corrupt legislature strikes again

Democracy Rising PA News, 12/20/11

House and Senate leaders promised citizens the most transparent redistricting process in history. If that is true about this year’s experience, which is hard to imagine, that only speaks to how secretive the process has been in previous years.

Across PA, the verdict among those who decry partisanship is unanimous about the new Congressional districts: the process and the people who controlled it have done a great disservice to the Commonwealth. All has been designed to undermine competitive elections and to give partisan advantage to the Republican Party, which controlled the entire affair.

Some say that Democrats would have been equally awful, and that may be. But it doesn’t excuse what the Republicans did, and it doesn’t make the product any better for the citizens. The R’s are entirely responsible for it. They had every chance to do it right, to restore public confidence, and to set a new standard for the future. They threw it all away.

Common Cause/PA and the League of Women Voters of PA created a project called Fair Shape Pennsylvania to document the slow-motion train wreck. Here are some of their comments:

“This congressional redistricting plan is breathtakingly brazen in its defiance of the interests of Pennsylvania’s voters,” said Common Cause Executive Director Barry Kauffman, after the House State Government Committee rubber-stamped the Senate’s legislation. Like the Pay Raise of 2005, the legislation was shoved down the people’s throats without any real chance for input from citizens.

The census data on which the new districts are based became available in early April. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission didn’t release its plan until December 14, when it passed the Senate and had its hearing in the House on December 15. After defeating House Democrats’ proposed amendments last night, the House votes today to make the plan official. In short, there was plenty of time to develop a plan, share it with the public, hold hearings, and come up with a final product by the end of October. That, of course, is not what happened. Again.

Kauffman notes that other states such as Iowa, California and Arizona perform this work with independent agencies comprised of people who don’t have a conflict of interest in the outcome.

“If Pennsylvanians ever hope to take back control of their government, we must reform our system for drawing legislative and congressional district boundaries. This plan is a clear-cut case of politicians picking their voters in order to prevent voters from having a meaningful opportunity to pick their elected officials,” Kauffman said.

The review by the LWV is equally scathing:

“These maps demonstrate, once again, what is wrong with Pennsylvania’s system for redrawing political boundaries. The current partisan, incumbent controlled system is clearly in need of reform. Apparently competition, which is good for free enterprise is not seen by politicians as good for democracy. A healthy democracy depends on fair and competitive elections. We preach it abroad – let us practice it at home. Self-interested politicians cannot be trusted to make the system work. It is time to amend the Pa Constitution to turn redistricting over to an independent, non-partisan body that will put the interests of the voters first,” the League said in a news release.

As DR members know, this is just one of many reasons why the majority of PA citizens (72% in January 2010) want a Constitution convention to repair their government. It also is just one of many reasons why lawmakers refuse to authorize the referendum that would allow citizens to have a convention.

Here is a sampling of how the state’s newspapers outside the big cities view the travesty that occurred this year.

Let the people draw the maps, York Dispatch, Dec. 15
A hasty redistricting effort, The Sentinel, Cumberland County, Dec. 18
Pa. incumbents win, voters lose in redistricting, Pottstown Mercury, Dec. 18
Reform redistricting, Pottsville Republican Herald, Dec. 19

Next year is an election year for the entire House and half of the Senate. Most of those who run for re-election will be the same people who this year made a mockery of the American system of governance. It’s up to us whether we let them get away with it.

Please support Democracy Rising PA

It’s the end of the year, and everyone is asking you for a tax-deductible contributions. So are we! But unlike other organizations, Democracy Rising PA is home-grown. There is no national organization that backs us up if we can’t raise money from PA citizens. Now’s the time, and here are our thank-you gifts:

Robert Surrick, Esq., author of Lawyers, Judges and Journalists: The Corrupt and the Corruptors, and Larry Hohol author of Luzerne County Railroad, are providing copies of their books at cost for DR to give to donors as thank-you gifts.

Click here for more information about the books and to make a secure, tax-deductible donation online. Or mail your donation to: Democracy Rising PA, P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013.

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Filed under Election rights and laws