By Rachel Goff, Social Justice Committee Member
The Social Justice Committee hosted William Gross, a speaker form Fair Districts PA, on Jan. 25 who examined the dangers of gerrymandered districts.
Gerrymandering, Mr. Gross pointed out, reduces competition, and 1/3 of all 202 general elections were unopposed in PA. It also pushes candidates to the extreme right and extreme left, as a politician worries mainly about primary opposition. Politicians ignore moderate voters. Finally, in a gerrymandered district, the politician selects their voters, instead of the voters selecting their representatives. Gerrymandering makes our legislators unaccountable to us, their constituents.
Both parties, Mr. Gross noted, gerrymander districts: In PA the Republican majority gerrymandered districts in 2011, as did the Democratic majority in Maryland. Fair Districts PA champions a better process for creating districts, and the 2020 census a will mandate all new maps for PA. Fair Districts supports a bill that requires transparency and public engagement in the map drawing. This bill includes public hearings on maps before they are approved, map submissions by interested Pennsylvania citizens, as well as enforceable limits to prevent splitting of counties, to ensure compact districts and to prevent division of voting precincts.
Mr. Gross also discussed a proposed PA Constitutional Amendment to create 31 new districts for state appellate and supreme court judges. This would replace the 50-year history of state-wide elections for these positions. Instead, the legislature would draw the 31 districts. Mr. Gross explained that this would reduce the power of citizens, who would vote for only 3 of the 31 judges instead of all 31 as now occurs. It also would reduce the power of the judiciary, decreasing traditional checks and balances. The judiciary would no longer be an equal co- partner with the executive and legislative branches in PA. Instead, the legislature would draw the 31 districts and could adjust them to punish judges for their rulings. The League of Woman Voters, Committee on 70, and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts oppose this amendment as does Fair Districts PA.
Want to help? Go to the Fair Districts PA website (www.fairdistrictspa.com) where you can contact your representatives and express your views on gerrymandering and judicial districts. You can sign a petition as well. Missed the talk? You can listen to it on the KI website: click on the streaming button and then on previous broadcasts. Select Jan. 25 talk at the Social Justice Committee meeting.
Mr. Gross is a volunteer at Fair Districts PA, which is a 100% non- partisan and 100% volunteer non- profit organization and official project of the League of Woman Voters. Fair Districts welcomes volunteers and provides speakers to many citizen and faith groups.