PA redistricting shows conflict of interest

Luanne Salaga


Mercer County finally got some redistricting news in The Herald June 27. John Finnerty synopsized the legislative redistricting initiative in a total of four brief paragraphs, and included with it brief discussions of two other bills that the Assembly didn’t finish before taking summer recess. It didn’t include the decades of research on gerrymandering accomplished by League of Women Voters; the several years of planning for the bi-partisan coalition of Fair Districts PA and its spin-off; the many legislator co-sponsors of the two proposed bills; the 39,000 citizen petition signatures acquired by that coalition since January of 2016; the sacrifices made by volunteer leaders who worked tirelessly to negotiate the Senate bill from June 4 through June 24.

Redistricting by legislators is an inherent conflict of interest existing in Pa.’s Constitution. It’s a “wonky” subject, and often discussed in such “legaleze” that ordinary citizens’ eyes glaze over when it’s brought up. It makes it easy for legislators like Rep. Kelly to dismiss the issue by saying “It’s political.” Well, yes, that’s an aspect. But the larger issue is that extreme map drawing goes against the principle of “one person, one vote.”

With available technology, legislators had the power to draw district lines in such ways as to ensure their seats are safe. And for the last three election cycles, 13 of 18 seats were consistently awarded to the majority party by the maps of 2010, for a ratio of 70/30. But the math didn’t add up in a state that almost always splits a presidential election vote at near 50/50. Shouldn’t the seat ratio be closer to 9/9?

It’s clear that legislators were choosing their voters, and that flies in the face of democracy. In a nutshell, the 2010 maps would have given Pennsylvania an artificial one-party rule, if it weren’t for Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court stepping in. But the new maps end after the 2020 election, and the old process will be used in 2021 if the Constitution isn’t changed.

Using California’s successful commission as a model, FDPA proposed an independent, non-partisan, transparent citizens commission to draw voter district maps in 2021. FDPA worked in good faith with Sen. Folmer to negotiate a reasonable amendment that more closely aligned the bill with the needs of the Assembly. But in a shameless display of disrespect for Pennsylvania voters, last minute “poison” amendments stalled the bills in both houses. There is still time, however, to get these bills passed. It would call for a special session to convene very soon, and that may happen.

Contact your legislators to express your thoughts, and follow the events as they emerge on Fair Districts PA of Mercer County FB page. Sign the petition at Fair Districts PA.com. Time is preciously short.

Luanne Salaga is Mercer County coordinator of FDPA


Money, ignorance have co-opted the democratic experiment

John Greenlee

Sandy Lake


Are we no longer a democracy but instead a communist dictatorship?

A democratic society boasts one man, one vote. And yet our political system has allowed the legitimization of parties to gerrymander voting districts to elect leaders regardless of the popular vote.

Trump lost the popular vote but sits as president. He has befriended dictators and alienated our foreign democratically elected allies.

Our representatives in government don’t vote their personal beliefs but support their party line group-think, which is being determined by the most outspoken leaders regardless of what’s right and just. They act as cowards, not in good conscience, but in fear of losing their supporters who are often bought and paid for by corporate sponsors.

No longer are we governed starting with what is best for individuals, but by what benefits the power monopolies. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need might not be so bad except that the needy aren’t receiving under this system.

The democratic experiment, in the U.S. at least, has been co-opted by money and ignorance. Seeing daily the way the current administration is destroying its core, it might be past rehabilitation.