Gerrymandering blot on voting integrity
In his 1989 Farewell Address, President Ronald Reagan called gerrymandering the ‘greatest single blot on the integrity of our nation’s electoral system, and it’s high time we did something about it.’ 1989! Once a party is able to gerrymander the state, they have an exponential advantage they don’t want to relinquish. My name is Mary Ann Mack and I have lived in East Pikeland Twp., Chester County since 2003. During one of East Pikeland’s political zone meetings we were asked what issue concerned us the most and I said Gerrymandering. Then I was challenged: “Do you want to take that on?” I researched the history, attended talks, and followed the progress of the bills and reported back to my group. We can all do “something” and no effort is too small. It was the futility of all the effort expended to get these Bills passed that were never given a chance for a vote. It’s enough to make you want to give up, but that is just giving in. It’s all about fairness and the damage that gerrymandered districts present. Why do Democrats get more votes, but wind up with less seats? It’s a constant and makes it impossible for them to achieve the Majority. The minority party is calling the shots even though the voters have cast more ballots for the other party. There are many tactics they use to maintain control. One is called “cracking.” They were successful in splitting up Phoenixville borough using this tactic. In the not-too-distant past Phoenixville was represented by both a Democratic senator and a Republican senator. This kind of representation dilutes the interests in the community from being heard. The most important thing I want the commissioners or committee members to hear and remember is how the voters are being cheated out of having their voices heard. When the party that gets fewer votes carries the district, they get to call the shots; and not the majority of the voters. When districts are so convoluted, they traverse as many as four different counties as District 6 did before the court stepped in to redraw the lines, voters do not have a representative to hear their voice because they are so far removed and their needs may very well be different than voters on the other end of the district. Before the lines were redrawn for District 6 it covered Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties. The constituents were unable to get a Town Hall scheduled with their Republican representative, so we had one without him and spoke to his picture. There was a large turnout in the auditorium. One constituent from Montgomery Co. spoke about the distance she had to travel just to get to the Town Hall. If the district was drawn with compactness in mind as was a provision of the independent commission, this would not have been a problem. Districts need to be compact so Town Halls will be relevant to those who attend and so constituents have proximity to their rep should they need to visit their office. To summarize, please follow the Pennsylvania Constitution and the language in the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act and make districts compact and contiguous. Do not divide municipalities or school districts such as Phoenixville, never split precincts and don’t jump lines over geographic boundaries such as the Schuylkill River. And finally, share your proposed district maps with the public for input before they are approved. And not just a few days, give voters time to offer their thoughts. Thank you very much for allowing me to share my thoughts.