House + Senate maps - concerns re Phila. & SE PA

Dear Chairman Nordenberg and the LRC, My name is Rabbi Beth Kalisch, and I am writing today as both a faith leader and a citizen of Pennsylvania. I have served since 2013 as the spiritual leader of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, serving a membership residing in Montgomery County, with some members in Delaware and Philadelphia Counties. I have lived since 2013 in Philadelphia. I first became aware of the irregularities in Pennsylvania’s legislative maps through my work as a faith leader trying to help my congregation fulfill their civic responsibilities to vote and to reach out their elected officials. Because the current maps are so irregularly drawn, my congregation includes members in approximately six different Pennsylvania House districts. In Delaware County in particular, these divisions do not even always line up across school districts. This makes it harder for my congregation to have relationships with our legislators, and to organize our congregation toward civic engagement. When trying to teach our teenagers about how to reach out to their elected officials, for example, our teachers need to consult multiple maps and records to help our students understand who their elected officials are, and how they have voted in the past. I am a member of the Pennsylvania Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. We are 40 synagogues comprising about 40,000 souls, and Jewish communities across the commonwealth uniting to advocate for fair and racially equitable legislative maps. Jewish sacred legal text teaches “a ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted.” Our faith calls us to advocate for maps that will provide all Pennsylvanians, especially marginalized groups and racial minorities, with adequate representation. We would like to express our gratitude to the LRC for your hard work and your efforts to improve the redistricting process. Thank you for holding hearings and making the process more transparent than in years past. We are especially grateful for your consideration and attention to racial equity. It is heartening to see maps that reflect the growth in communities of color and give minority voters more representation than in years past. We are paying close attention to the final map release and trust that you will follow through with your commitment to creating minority opportunity districts and to taking community comments into account. We urge you not to give in to partisan pressure to backslide on the improvements to ending partisan gerrymandering and creating opportunity districts in the House and to make necessary changes to Senate and certain House districts. I urge you to make two significant changes to promote fair representation for communities within Philadelphia and Southeast Pennsylvania. First, the LRC House of Representatives map for Delaware County does a poor job keeping school districts intact. More than half of the county's districts are split; in some cases, they are split three ways. It also splits all four of the county's most under-resourced school districts. We urge you to revisit the Delaware County maps and work toward keeping communities intact by uniting the school districts and making it easier for under-resourced neighborhoods to access their legislators. Second, in Philadelphia, despite explicit feedback from many citizens and organizations, including PA Voice, the Senate maps do little to provide fair representation for Latinos. In Philadelphia, the Latino community is split among four districts, whereas the People’s Maps (created by Fair Districts PA) created an opportunity district in this area. As the Latino population in the commonwealth has grown exponentially, we are yet to see a Latino State Senator. I urge you to correct this injustice that has prevailed for too long by creating an additional majority minority district in Philadelphia. Third, the LRC’s Senate map does not adequately represent shifts that have occurred in PA’s population over the last ten years, in particular the declining population in rural/western communities and growing population in more central and eastern cities. The Senate map distributes the population inequitably, penalizing urban residents and minority communities. I urge you to correct this malapportionment and vote dilution by creating more districts in Southeastern PA. Specifically, in Southwest and Central PA, the Senate map draws many districts with populations significantly below what might be expected, while in Southeast PA, several districts are drawn with populations larger than one would expect. This means that individual voters in Southeast PA have less clout. The standard deviation percentages are horrible, seeming to favor rural areas and almost erasing any changes that should have taken place due to the reallocation of prisoners that was voted on earlier last year. I urge you to correct this major flaw in the Senate maps. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Rabbi Beth Kalisch Beth David Reform Congregation, Gladwyne PA