Redefine the Lines: A Weekly Update on Gerrymandering

We will provide a weekly update on the actions to redefine the lines of PA congressional districts.  These lines determine who your congressperson is in the US House of Representatives.

PA congressional map
Your congressperson is determined by this map made by Harrisburg politicians.

Who is Your Congressperson?

Your Congressperson is determined by the population in Pennsylvania and the areas of the commonwealth they represent.  The number of districts for each state are determined based on total state residents provided by the U.S. Census recorded every ten years.  In 2010, Pennsylvania’s population earned 18 Congresspersons.

The areas of the state or districts where the congresspersons serve are determined by the state legislature in Harrisburg.  At the time of the defining the congressional district lines in 2011, the state legislature was controlled by the GOP.  The PA GOP created congressional districts to maximize GOP congresspersons.

The map above is the result of that process. This map produced 13 GOP Congresspersons and 5 Democratic Congresspersons although there are approximately 1 million more Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania.

No Worst District

The 7th Congressional district is a national example of what is wrong with our politics.  The district includes excessive breaks in counties, towns and neighborhoods.  It is designed to gain a GOP congressional majority, and it has produced that result.

7th Congressional district

The 7th Congressional district violates all reasons other than partisanship.
The 7th Congressional district violates all reasons other than partisanship.

Who Cares?

The process of re-drawing district lines to give an advantage to one party over another is called “gerrymandering”. Here’s how it works. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
The process of re-drawing district lines to give an advantage to one party over another is called "gerrymandering". Here's how it works.

The winners of elections are determined by the district lines not the voters.  In other words politicians are determining their voters.  Advocacy groups including Fair Districts PA and the League of Women Voters complained.  The League of Women Voters and 18 Pennsylvania voters started a lawsuit to draw new congressional district lines without the excessive partisanship. They just won.

The PA Supreme Court decided on January 22 the 2011 congressional lines are unconstitutional.  It ordered the state legislature to draw a new congressional map by 9 February   the Governor can agree to by 15 February, otherwise the PA Supreme Court will draw the map itself.  It further ordered the legislature to hand over the data providing the basis of its arguments for constitutionality of the current lines in court, as well as analytical reports associated with any new maps the legislature develops.

Recent Developments

Town hallThe Senate GOP asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the orders of the PA Supreme Court on 23 January. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by next Tuesday.  In addition, the Senate GOP refused to provide the PA Supreme Court with the information it used to draw the Congressional lines in 2011 on 31 January.  A response to the Senate GOP from the PA Supreme Court is expected.  The state senate is expected to be in session all of next week to address the district lines.

Please join me next Thursday for my Tele Town Hall on 8 February at 7p.m. where we will discuss redefining the lines.

Dare to Care,

Art Haywood
State Senator
4th District

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