OP-ED: Voters must study district maps to stop gerrymandering |
It took too long to get there, but Pennsylvania voters now have at least one map of the state legislature to consider in how congressional and legislative districts will be reorganized for the next decade.
Now the redistribution process is shifting into high gear, and voters need to be careful, speak out, and ensure that selfish politicians do not draw cards that protect their power and dilute that of the voters. And that goes for Democrats as well as Republicans.
House Republicans have proposed using a map drawn by former Lehigh County Republican Commissioner Amanda Holt, a supporter of redistribution reform. But it’s easier than ever to study and compare the maps put forward by a myriad of groups determined to ensure that a few skillful politicians draw their own havens at the expense of thousands of voters.
This time around, voters have more power than ever to see through the fog of redistribution. Dave’s Redistribution app is one of the best tools for comparing cards to see if they meet the criteria for fairness and political balance.
Thanks to PennLive and Spotlight PA, who sponsored a year-long project on constituency redistribution in Pennsylvania, voters can easily find out who is proposing what, who benefits, and why.
And watchdogs like David Thornburgh and Mark Villere, along with Draw the Lines PA, monitor developments in the state capital almost hourly. They were alarmed at how long it took for lawmakers to do their jobs and provide cards for voters to consider ahead of the May 2022 primary.
Remember there are deadlines for each step of the process, including allowing voters at least 30 days to comment before the final vote. Draw the Lines PA also provides voters with their own bipartisan analysis of proposed redistribution maps, and galvanizes public engagement to help ensure voters’ voices are heard.
Thornburgh believes what voters want most of all are districts that keep their communities intact and allow easy access to their representatives’ offices. They also want politically balanced and competitive neighborhoods.
It means no gerrymandering. This means not creating constituencies to keep a politician or political party in power. And that means no deliberate attempt to dilute the votes of certain racial or ethnic groups to reduce their political power.
It sounds so simple and reasonable, but it’s a tall order for some politicians who just don’t think they can win unless the cards are stacked in their favor. They want to make sure they keep their seat whether they deserve it or not. But that’s exactly what will happen if voters don’t take advantage of all the tools at their disposal to keep an eye on the redistribution maps currently on offer and demand that lawmakers act in the best interests of all Pennsylvanians.
Like Draw the Lines PA, we’re encouraged that there is at least one card on the table to start the dialogue, but we join them in asking the House State Government Committee to provide details on how the new lines have been traced and why.
And we join Draw the Lines PA in insisting that lawmakers engage the public in the process and act on their behalf, and not just to protect their own political blocs.