Whose interests do “our” state representatives serve?
Two state House bills that would get politicians out of the process of drawing their own district lines and put the process into the hands of an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission are sitting in a committee while legislators are making excuses for not supporting them. Yet, these two bills have much public support and are THE most cosponsored bills this legislative session.
Why the excuses? Redistricting is power, period. Our state redistricting history proves that whichever party has been in charge of it they try to gerrymander as much as possible in order to increase or solidify their majority. This is called partisan politics over representative Democracy (government of, for, and by the people).
The shenanigans and cheating in the redistricting process must stop. It is time to heed the public outcry for a more fair, transparent, and impartial process. But how? In Pennsylvania we are not a referendum state and all changes must go through, guess who, our legislators. How do we, the people, get them to enact legislation that has great public support when they prefer to “serve” their own self interests? It’s not easy but very possible.
One would think that the overwhelming public support for the change to an independent citizens redistricting commission (many states already have variations of this type of commission) would matter, would be enough. Think again.
Last year, this legislation was among the most popular among Pennsylvania’s citizens and most cosponsored by legislators. What happened to these bills? Our representatives effectively killed these bills by gutting them, replacing wording to say that “legislators do it all,” and amending them with unacceptable, and unrelated issues. For all those who had worked so hard in the interest of the citizens of Pennsylvania, it was very disillusioning. There was also, for many, the realization that loosening the legislators’ grip on redistricting would not be an easy task.
Here we are again, our bills, back by “popular demand.” Two (HB 22 & 23) are currently sitting in the House State Government Committee. And, guess what..most cosponsored again! These bills also have mirror bills in the state senate (SB1022 & 1023). But, the legislators are dragging their feet and starting to give excuses and reasons why this change is not a “good thing” for us! Do they think we do not see through the “smoke and mirrors?”
The chair of the House State Government Committee, Rep. Garth Everett, Lycoming County, was recently quoted making two very telling statements in recent “The Morning Call,” Lehigh Valley News articles. First, that some of the lawmakers agreed only to be cosponsors to be free of pressure from Fair Districts PA activists — to get them off their back. Second, that the redistricting process should remain in the hands of the legislature because that is where the state and federal constitution put the redistricting process.
Newsflash Rep. Everett! Let’s talk about the state constitution (fully, truly and completely)! You must also be aware that it says, “The PEOPLE have the right to alter and reform?” AND, isn’t there an amendment process that has been utilized based on necessity and need in the past?
There is consensus among the citizens of Pennsylvania that the politicians can no longer be trusted with this process. Citizens believe that the repeated cheating (gerrymandering) with the redistricting process — over many, many redistricting cycles — has lost them this right that they consider theirs. So, citizens of Pennsylvania, now what? Will this change that the majority of us want come to fruition? Will the legislators move the bills out to the floor for their deserved vote? If they do move to the floor for a vote, will your representative vote with you in mind or their party leadership’s direction? Will they gut, change, or amend it for their advantage again? We will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, you can do something about it. Let them know, for the record, that you want to see this change to an Independent Citizens Redistricting Committee. Stop by their office or give them a call. Every call matters (or should matter) to them. It is time to put an end to gerrymandering once and for all. It is time to put to an end to politicians choosing their voters for partisan gain. For more information on Fair Districts PA go to: www.FairDistrictsPA.com.
(Denise Williams is a Northeast Regional Coordinator for Fair Districts PA).