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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Why do we conduct a census? Because the constitution tells us to, in this unassuming language:

"The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct" (Article I, Section II).

(Interestingly, the sentence right before that one is the infamous Three-fifths Clause.)

One of the purposes of the census is to figure out how many congressmen each state gets. However, the Constitution says nothing about how legislative districts should be drawn. Pennsylvania's Constitution does, but it does not, apparently, say enough.

Which has led to blatant gerrymandering. For a close-to-home example, check out the Sixth Congressional District:

They drew it in 2001 for Jim Gerlach.

And, based on the 2010 census results, the partisan line drawers in Harrisburg are likely to come up with even more abstract shapes.

To prevent such abuses, a few state legislators have introduced bills that would seek to limit gerrymandering. The goal is congressional districts, state senate districts and state house districts that do not unnecessarily split up geographic regions, neighborhoods, municipalities, school districts, etc.

State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-157th of Tredyffrin, is one of the legislators who has introduced such a bill. He held a hearing on Thursday at which he sought feedback on his bill and on a similar bill by State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-182 of Philadelphia.

Drucker sought testimony from the League of Women Voters and Common Cause for Pennsylvania. Spokeswomen from both of those agencies testified that Drucker's and Josephs' bills were a good start, but were highly flawed.

The problem, the spokeswomen said, was that both Drucker's bill and Josephs' bill call for the creation of bi-partisan redistricting committees. The League and Common Cause would prefer if these committees were non-partisan.

The committees that Drucker and Josephs call for would be composed of the house and senate majority and minority leaders. Drucker's bill would add on the majority and minority whips. Both bills call for the committee to be chaired by a non-legislator appointee.

The League and Common Cause wonder, "Why the hell would you want to leave legislators in charge of redrawing legislative districts."

You can read Drucker's bill here. You can read Josephs' bill here.

You can read the League of Women Voters' response here. You can read Common Cause for Pennsylvania's response here.

(There are other redistricting reform bills. I've concentrated on these because they were the subject of yesterday's hearing, which I covered.)

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