Support for redistricting reform in Pennsylvania is not a partisan issue. Results of a 2019 poll by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College show that 72% of registered voters believe the current method of redistricting puts party interests above voter interests.
This will be an election issue: 59% of registered voters are more likely or very likely to support legislators who vote for an independent redistricting commission.
Two legislators in Chester County, Representatives Tim Hennessey (HD26) and John Lawrence (HD13), currently have not cosponsored House Bills 22 & 23, two bills which together would set up an independent nonpartisan commission to draw the maps for both legislative and congressional districts. Representative Lawrence supports the bills but he hasn’t cosponsored.
In Montgomery County the only two legislators who have not co-sponsored are Representatives Matt Bradford (HD70) and Marcy Toepel (HD147). Each leaders in their respective House Leadership Caucus, these two are on opposite sides of the aisle. Both parties engage in gerrymandering.
In Berks County, the list is slightly longer: Representatives Jim Cox (HD129) , David Maloney (HD130), Ryan MacKenzie (HD134), Jerry Knowles (HD124), Barry Jozwiak (HD5) and Gary Day (HD187) currently do not cosponsor bills which will set up an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission.
The rural parts of PA needn’t imagine their representation will cater to urban centers. Population is the first criterion considered when constructing maps: districts must be the same population. After that, it makes sense to keep townships, municipalities, and counties undivided as much as possible. So rural areas lean red and urban areas lean blue. Fine.
Language stating townships, boroughs, and counties should not be divided more than necessary is part of the PA constitution but has been ignored by those who drew district maps. Why? It looks like those responsible for maps the last time were protecting incumbents and making sure that districts were safe for their party.
Results of the new poll on voter attitudes are clear across the state: the Central region leads in dissatisfaction with redistricting: 71% of respondents support an independent redistricting commission, and they are the area least interested in having legislators choose their own voters again (12%). The Southeast is hard on their heels.
The entire poll of voter attitudes can be found online at FairDistrictsPA.com.
Patricia Rooney, Fair Districts PA, Chester; Rich Rafferty, Fair Districts PA, Montgomery; Sally Trump, Fair Districts PA, Berks