Bucks Co. Senate Districts Communities of Interest

Download File (block-assignments.csv)

My name is Ardith Talbott. I live in Solebury, PA which is located in Bucks County. I live in the 10th Senatorial and the 178th House district. I am the Bucks County coordinator for Fair Districts PA and have been deeply involved in working for redistricting reform for the past 5 years. I have written many editorials and letters to the editor on the subject of gerrymandering. My legislators and many people in Bucks County are very familiar with my focused dedication to the issue of fair voting districts. I am here today to ask you to draw senatorial voting districts in Bucks County that will better represent the needs of the citizens of our county. Bucks County population is 628,270, making it the fourth largest county in PA. Currently, 4 senatorial districts cover parts of the county, but given the target population of 256k for each state senate district, Bucks County should have 2.5 Senate districts. The organizing principle for such a map is very clear once you know a little bit about Bucks County. Let me explain. The county is a long, narrow county bordering the Delaware River. It is organized economically and socially into 3 regions running from the Delaware river on the East to Montgomery County to the West. In Bucks County, we know these regions as Lower Bucks, Central Bucks and Upper Bucks. For example, there is a Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce with about 1000 members; there is a Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce of similar size, and there is an Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce. In regard to education: There is the Lower Buck campus, the Central Bucks campus, and the Upper Bucks campus of the Bucks County Community College. The county has 3 technical schools…you guessed it… There is a Lower Bucks, Central Bucks and Upper Bucks Technical School. Lower Bucks borders Philadelphia to the South and Trenton, New Jersey to the East. Lower Bucks is more densely populated with older suburban communities like Levittown and Bensalem. It has issues of immigration, poverty and a resulting lower tax base. This part of the county is increasingly racially diverse. There are several underfunded school districts in Lower Bucks. On the other hand, Central Bucks is relatively affluent and has well-funded public schools. Coincidentally the largest school district is called “Central Bucks School District”. Newer suburban communities cover much of this region. However, there are issues related to an aging population, and a lack of public transportation. Meanwhile, Upper Bucks is where you’ll find four state game lands for hunters, and family farms, next to efforts to encourage business startups. Upper Bucks has a lack of public transportation infrastructure. The Bucks County Dept of Economic and Workforce Development sites important differences by these 3 regions of the county. Now let me show you a map of the current senatorial districts. As you can see, three districts are oriented north to south not east-west. The 10th Senatorial district in green, where I live, covers a piece of Upper Bucks, a piece of Central Bucks and a piece of Lower Bucks County. The senator represents 3 very different socio-economic communities, which sometimes hold conflicting views on fundamental rights. This makes it very difficult for the senator to be a strong voice for constituents on important issues. It also means that each region has multiple senators, rather than just one whose priority is that community. As you can also see, Lower Bucks is divided between two senatorial districts, the 6th and the 10th, Central Bucks is divided between three senators, and Upper Bucks between two. I haven’t heard a good reason why the map was drawn this way, but looking at the historical maps, I suspect gerrymandering is behind much of it. But YOU, the LRC, can fix this. As I said, Bucks needs 2.5 senators according to our population, and each of our senators could and should represent one of the three regions of Bucks County. Here is an example of a map that makes sense. In this example, a Lower Bucks senate district would have a population of about 270K, Middle Bucks in green would have about 257K and Upper bucks would need to include similar communities in a bordering county to reach a target of 255K. This map shows a district with similar School districts in Montgomery County. As mentioned earlier, the population of the county is only enough to justify 2.5 senators, hence the need to combine the district with parts of a bordering county. Note that this map is only intended to be an example of what is possible. Just as a test for fairness, I checked to see what the partisan leaning of these 3 senatorial districts would be, using statistics from several recent general elections, which is available in Dave’s Redistricting App (https://davesredistricting.org). The Lower Bucks district would lean blue; the Middle Bucks district “purple” (50:50), and Upper Bucks would lean red. Bucks County overall IS “purple”, so drawing the senate districts this way results in districts that would provide voters with proportional representation. Thank you for considering the insights I’ve provided about the 4th largest county in the state, and for providing citizens with the opportunity to have a say in their legislative maps.