Fighting for Fair Districts

SCRANTON -- Ever wonder why some legislative districts have such a strange shape?

Organizers of a rally in Scranton say if you think the political system is broken, stopping gerrymandering is the way to fix it.

You might remember learning about gerrymandering back in your high school government class. It's the practice of drawing legislative districts so that office holders have the best chance of being reelected, or to guarantee which party will win.

Some people who want to change the way those districts are drawn rallied on Courthouse Square in Scranton Sunday.

By Department of the Interior - National Atlas of the United States (http://nationalatlas.gov/printable/congress.html), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30930559

Over the past 60 years, Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district near Philadelphia has morphed into a sprawling, scrambled scrap.

Organizers of the rally in Scranton say twisty, turning boundaries take away the power of the people in a tactic known as gerrymandering.

"This is not only Republicans. This is Democrats that do it as well."

Activists from an organization called Fair Districts PA say there is a long history of politicians from all parties manipulating congressional and state legislative lines as a way to hold onto or gain power.

"You take a group of like voters, and you pack them into a legislative district, and when you do that, all the surrounding districts go the other way," said Dwayne Heisler with Fair Districts PA.

Advocates say when communities are divided, they get less effective representation. For example, North Washington Avenue in downtown Scranton is the boundary between two congressional districts.

But changing the system isn't easy. In Pennsylvania, shifting how lawmakers' districts are drawn would require modifying the state constitution.

Still, activists aim to get the job done before the 2020 census.

"It's gotten worse in the last couple of censuses. We have computer technology now that can parse out how a voting district is going to vote," said Peter Ouelette of Pittston.

The cause appears to be attracting new supporters. Elizabeth Thompson of Ransom Township says she is tired of feeling her vote doesn't count.

"We learned about gerrymandering years ago in school, but they said that was the olden days, and that it's illegal. I didn't realize that it is going on right now," Thompson said.

There is legislation pending in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate, but changing the state constitution requires passing bills in both houses--twice--during separate sessions, as well as having voters approve a referendum.

17 comments

  • Valfreyja

    Yep well republicans have gerrymandered the districts to the point the vote will be meaningless by the next census.

  • Are you kidding!?!

    It’s not just Pennsylvania politics, it’s everywhere politics. This will never change until there is a mechanism in place that will divide districts purely on population density.

    Even better would be for the Commonwealth to go to an electoral system. Philly, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh drive the results in the Presidential, Senatorial, and State Level Offices. An electoral system would mitigate that. It would give the Counties more leverage. The only people against this would be the Democrats. Just like voter verification.

    • A vote is a vote

      So what your saying is that you think your vote is more important than others. Sorry it just doesn’t work that way (except for the ridiculous presidential electoral college).

  • White trash

    This is a great movement. Go back to simple geographic lines. It is also important to move election days to Sundays. Stop having public funding of political party primary elections — make them pay for them. Or better: “primaries” should be open and without party with a run off if no one gets the majority. Finally get rid of the electoral college — anachronistic at best.

    • WarningFakeNews

      Who draws up the simple geographic lines? Everyone, excluding NO ONE, everyone has a dog in this fight.

      Open primaries up to the other party? Stupid, each party should have their choice and the winners of the primaries compete for the vote. The primary is actually more important in a pure party system than the general is, for that’s where each party not only decides who they like the most, but also who has the best shot at winning in the general election. It calls for some disciplined thought.

      Get rid of the electoral college? Let’s just hand the election to liberals who stuff ballot boxes with illegal votes, non-existent votes, and people voting to keep receiving their freebies. CA and NY will never effectively police the voting process except to keep it corrupt.

      • White Trash

        1) There are indeed ways to make geographic lines without respect to political parties. It isn’t rocket science. Of course the GOP would never allow it.
        2) Political parties are not a necessary part of our government. The people should not have to pay for a political parties decision as to who to run. They can do it however they like for all I care — just don’t make me pay for their circus. It is more fair and meaningful to have a completely open election followed by a run-off of the the two top voted candidates.
        3) Ban PACs, corporate and “dark” funding of elections. Overturn “Citizens United”
        4) As to the electoral college, it is ridiculous. By the way, the only proven case of voter fraud in the last election was by a Trump voter in Iowa who voted for him twice. Trump lost fair and square. Well… the country lost. It lost its standing in the world, its trade partners and worse — its intelligence partners.

  • Jeff Woehrle

    Perhaps a worthwhile endeavor.

    However, remember when Hillary and the media were crowing about the “blue wall” that would boost Hillary to the White House? That wall was an electoral wall, and democrats banked heavily on it. Luckily, the people spoke loudly enough to smash Hillary’s misplaced confidence.

    Votes matter, and it appears the democrats would prefer that be ignored from now on.

  • Sue Abbott

    Thank you, WNEP, for covering this very important issue and bringing it to the attention of your viewing audience. It’s a great start in returning balance and fairness to the electoral process, which has been skewed and twisted for years, resulting in the average voter’s voice being lost in the fight for control and power over the citizens of this state (and almost every other state in the union!). A bipartisan, NON-political committee that sets these boundaries has been needed for a LONG time. It is the CORE issue in beginning to right the process of ‘one voice, one vote’ that our democracy depends on. Resting control from the 1% is the main goal, and this is a great beginning. We WILL get OUR country, and government back. Thank you again.

    • WarningFakeNews

      “A bipartisan, NON-political committee”

      Ain’t no such thing! If these people claim to be non-political, they’re lying through their teeth, and they definitely CANNOT be trusted. Non-political people don’t get involved in politics. This is the very definition of getting involved in it, mired in it!

  • McCracken

    Both sides play the gerrymandering game. It just depends on who holds more power, at a give time. To think otherwise, is to show naivety.

    • Givemeabreak

      The only comment that got it right. Democrats and Republicans are just the opposite sides of one coin.

  • Eddie

    headline should read ” Fighting For More Democrats In Office Even Though They Keep Losing And The DNC Is Broke” ……………………….who is kidding who here ?! what a joke !

    • Sue Abbott

      This organization is fighting to FIX this broken system and restore EVERYONE’S right to have THEIR vote count equally. What are YOU doing to change the way the system is rigged (for the 1%, not just the Rs or Ds)?????

  • Huggy

    We don’t let those chincy fellows from frackville and ashland vote anymore do we? They’re pretty dumb people

  • WarningFakeNews

    Gee, the major concern here wouldn’t be that the democrats lost something like 1000 seats in government in the last 8 years or so, would it?

    While the story tries to color this as a bipartisan effort, I have a feeling there would not be much attention paid to it if the democrats were firmly in power right now.

Comments are closed.