Delaware County Redistricting & "Proportionality"
I am a resident of Marple Township and reside in the 5th Ward, which is located under the prior maps in the 168th Legislative District. I am writing to express my strong opposition to the proposed House Legislative Districts for three reasons: 1) the splitting of Marple Township between two districts, 2) the splitting of an important "community of interest" (Marple Newtown School District) between three House districts and 3) the flawed goal of achieving statewide "proportionality" to the popular vote and its impact on Delaware County. First, under the prior (current) maps, Marple Township was split between the 165th and 168th Districts. I had hoped that the new redistricting process would correct this mistake, but it does not. Under the proposed maps, Marple Township is once again split between two legislative districts (the 165th and 166th) which weakens our voice as a township in the legislature and advocating for funding for our community. I believe the map should be corrected to make Marple Township completely within one legislative district. Second, under the prior maps, Marple Newtown School District, a community of interest, was split between two legislative districts (the 165th and and 168th). That was not ideal, but the proposed maps are far worse, splitting the Marple Newtown School District between three legislative districts (the 165th, 166th, and 168th). Given the important role the state plays in funding our public schools, being split between three legislative district makes it less likely that a single legislator will champion increased funding or grants for our public schools. This puts our school district at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to other school districts that are located wholly within one legislative district as well as school districts that are split between two legislative districts. The third and final point I would like to make relates to the concept of "proportionality" raised by the Chair of the Legislative Redistricting Commission. Chair Marc Nordenberg, in his public comments to start the public comment session on Thursday, January 6th talked about the concept of proportionality as a justification for the the proposed House maps. Specifically, he stated that if Democrats receive 51 percent of the statewide votes, compared to 46 percent Republicans, then they should win the majority of House seats (106 Democratic seats to 97 Republican seats). He calls this "fair." However, this is not a constitutional basis for redistricting and its inherent flaws is shown at the local level, particularly in Delaware County. Notably, many urban areas have far higher concentration of Democrats in legislative districts due to the higher concentration of registered Democrats in cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. As a result, in order to achieve the proportionality “fairness” he envisions and ensure Democrat seats are equivalent to their overall turnout, Nordenberg created non-competitive, “Safe Democratic” seats in Delaware County that were once competitive. In other words, in order to achieve statewide “proportionality,” these maps create disproportionality in Delaware County. If his standards of fair proportionately were translated from a statewide basis to Delaware County -- where the state House candidates receive a roughly 55 % to 45 % of the vote – then at least 40 percent of the House seats in Delaware County would be Republican majority seats. That is not the case. In fact, under the proposed maps, no Delaware County legislative seats are projected to be Republican, which underscores the inherent flaws and unfairness of proportionality when translated to the county-level. In order to achieve statewide proportionality, only one seat in Delaware County (the 160th, which is split with Chester County) could be considered "competitive." As a result, these proposed maps for Pennsylvania receive an F grade for competitiveness from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. This lack of competitiveness will result in less moderates being elected to our legislature. This will drive both political parties to become more conservative and more liberal as incumbents strive to play to their base in order to secure primary election victories. This in turn will create more gridlock and result in more voters - moderates -- feeling disenfranchised by their respective political parties. These maps are not fair to Delaware County voters, nor voters as a whole in Pennsylvania. We can and should do better and I urge you to rethink your goal of proportionality and recognize the detrimental impact it has caused in Delaware County by splitting school districts among three legislative districts and creating virtually al Democratic districts in a county where the party registration is close to 55 percent to 45 percent split.