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Every ten years, following the census, the political party in power gets to redraw the lines of congressional districts. This process, called redistricting, is often used by the party in power to do what is known as gerrymandering, or drawing up oddly contorted districts that make no sense in terms of representing geographic areas, but work perfectly to manipulate the entire political/electoral process to the advantage of the political party with the majority.

After the last round of redistricting in Pennsylvania, we wound up with districts gerrymandered so badly that they now look something like this:

PA Congressional District 1
PA Congressional District 6
PA Congressional District 12
PA Congressional District 18
The idea is to cram as many of the opposing party's voters into as few districts possible, giving them a small number of virtually unlosable districts with huge party registration edges, while leaving themselves as large a number as possible of districts that don't have as severe a party registration edge, but enough of an edge to be safely winnable. After Pennsylvania Republicans got to gerrymander the district lines in 2010, democracy was essentially blocked in the 2012 election because despite more Pennsylvanians casting their vote for a Democratic member of Congress than those who voted for a Republican, the Republicans won a whopping 13 districts to Democrats' mere five. You read that right, because of gerrymandering, the party that got less votes has more than double and nearly triple the representation of the party that got more votes.

I spoke about this recently on my new show, Counterpoint PA, in a segment about the new Government Reform Caucus in the Pennsylvania Legislature. While I'm very glad there is now such a caucus and they are supporting a number of worthwhile pieces of legislation, I pointed out in the segment that unfortunately none of their legislative proposals include redistricting reform. I subsequently got a tweet from state Senator Rob Teplitz, one of the legislators heading up the Government Reform Caucus:

For those who wish to check it out for themselves, you can read more about Teplitz's redistricting reform proposal here.

This is huge news! There actually is a chance for the Government Reform Caucus to support a fairer and more equitable redistricting process. But the way the process works now benefits the majority party so greatly that there's no doubt some of its members won't support reform - that's where you come in. Below is a list of legislators who are members of the Government Reform Caucus. Call them up or email them, especially if you see your representative/senator on the list, and tell them you know this meeting is coming up this week and how important you think it is for them to support state Senator Teplitz's redistricting reform proposal.

State Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York) and state Representative Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) co-chair the Government Reform Caucus.

Participants from the PA Senate include:
Sens. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe)
Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland)
Pat Browne (R-Lehigh/Monroe/Northampton)
Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland)
Mike Brubaker (R-Chester/Lancaster)
John Eichelberger (R-Bedford/Blair/Fulton/Huntingdon/Mifflin)
Ted Erickson (R-Chester/Delaware)
Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler/Clarion/Erie/Forest/Venango/Warren)
John Rafferty (R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery)
Judy Schwank (D-Berks)
Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia)

Participants from the PA House include:
Reps. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster)
Rosemary M. Brown (R-Monroe/Pike)
Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-Northumberland/Snyder)
Tina Davis (D-Bucks)
Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland)
Pamela DeLissio (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery)
George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland)
Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland/Armstrong)
Garth Everett (R-Lycoming)
Mindy Fee (R-Lancaster)
Jaret Gibbons (D-Lawrence/Beaver/Butler)
Glen Grell (R-Cumberland)
Rob Kauffman (R-Cumberland/Franklin)
Patty Kim (D-Dauphin)
John Lawrence (R-Chester)
Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks/Lehigh)
Steven Mentzer (R-Lancaster)
Rick Saccone (R-Washington/Allegheny)
Mario Scavello (R-Monroe)
Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh)
Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Northampton)
RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon)
Dan Truitt (R-Chester)

As Sean Kitchen of Raging Chicken Press informed me, the chair of the State Government Committee in the PA House is notorious right-wing reactionary Daryl Metcalfe, so passing the bill in this legislative session would be a highly ambitious goal. Still, having a well-populated caucus of members of both parties in both the PA House and the PA Senate supporting it would be a solid step forward in moving Pennsylvania towards a more just redistricting process. The opportunity is here, now all it takes is for you to pick up that phone or write that email. You can look up your state representative and state senator and find their contact information here.

Originally posted to ProgressivePatriotPA on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:47 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania and State & Local ACTION Group.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

    by ProgressivePatriotPA on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:47:07 PM PDT

  •  thank you for this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProgressivePatriotPA

    tip/rec and shared to my pa peeps

    every adult is responsible for every child

    by ridemybike on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:56:29 PM PDT

  •  Only problem with this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProgressivePatriotPA

    ...is that it's in one state and not nationwide. Along with campaign finance reform (aka get the money OUT of politics period), redistricting reform is pretty much the top of the list of desperately needed reforms to make democracy actually functional again. Throw in filibuster reform and you have the trifecta.

    Honestly I think the best chance this has is to wait for a progressive majority on the Supreme Court and then sue to overturn the gerrymandered districts. If we can get a broad enough ruling, we can win the whole thing in one swell foop.

    That's not to say smaller efforts aren't beneficial or necessary, but that's the endgame in my mind. Reversing Citizens United and pushing hard campaign finance and lobbying restrictions is also vital. You can't give a damned thing to judges or law enforcement, it's called bribery and you go to jail for it. The same rules should apply to politicians. They should receive a certain amount of public resources to campaign with and that's it. Make media companies (who are regulated by the FCC) give equal time to all candidates for free as part of their public responsibilities and no more. Like a formal debate, you get your allotted time to make your case and that's it. Use it wisely, cuz that's all you get.

    Accomplish these two goals and you'd see a progressive majority in government almost overnight.

    "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

    by DarthMeow504 on Mon May 06, 2013 at 02:58:36 PM PDT

    •  Solid points all around, and you yourself say (0+ / 0-)

      this effort is worthwhile, it's just that ultimately we need a similar movement nationally, which I totally agree with. I would only add to your list of needed reforms one more:
      there should be a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act that puts all the same restrictions on our politicians that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act puts on politicians of other governments where influence from US entities is concerned.

      Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

      by ProgressivePatriotPA on Mon May 06, 2013 at 07:44:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  redistricting (0+ / 0-)

    My Republican state rep, very conservative but not always unreasonable, is on the above list, so I wrote to him about adding redistricting to government reform concerns. I haven't heard back yet.

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