On May 20 the Smithfield Township Supervisors unanimously (3-0) adopted a resolution seeking to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by supporting legislation calling for nonpartisan redistricting reform. Gerrymandering is the practice of a governing party gaining unfair political advantage by manipulating electoral district boundaries. Gerrymandering allows politicians to choose voters, rather than voters choosing politicians. Smithfield Township lies in one of the most gerrymandered counties in Pa., and Pa. is arguably the most gerrymandered state in the nation.
We believe that gerrymandering must be repaired to restore trust in government. Unfortunately, the absurdly gerrymandered state districts remain, but can be fixed.
The Smithfield resolution documents the municipality’s support of legislation that would end the current practice of politicians drawing the boundaries of their own voting districts. It also calls on every elected official representing the voters of Smithfield township to publicly support and work for passage of that legislation.
House Bill 23 and Senate Bill 1023, creates by statute, an Independent Citizens’ Commission to draw congressional maps. House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 1022 extends the role of the Independent Citizens Commission, by state constitutional amendment, to put the redistricting power for both our congressional and state legislative districts in the hands of an independent citizens commission. These bills will lead to one commission. Commissioners would be randomly selected from a list of qualified candidates who would be held accountable to make the redistricting process fair, transparent and provide for meaningful public input.
President Reagan condemned gerrymandering: “That’s all we are asking for: an end to the antidemocratic and un-American practice of gerrymandering congressional districts. The fact is gerrymandering has become a national scandal.”
According to Carol Kuniholm, Chair of Fair Districts PA: “The US is the only major democracy that allows legislators a role in drawing their own district lines, and for years Pennsylvania has been one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation. Our local officials see first hand how gerrymandered districts confuse and frustrate voters, make electoral participation more difficult and undermine real representation. This reform is an affirmation of our nation's founding principle: government of, by and for the people.”
Statewide polls found that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support an independent citizens redistricting commission, free of political influence and operating in total transparency. Pennsylvania citizens are indebted to Common Cause, the League of Woman Voters, and Fair Districts for their tireless work on this issue.
Smithfield Township joins more than 356 municipalities and 23 counties including Monroe statewide in passing this Fair Districts Resolution. Please visit www.fairdistrictspa.com.
Mark Lichty, East Stroudsburg resident and Plaintiff in League of Woman Voters gerrymandering case.
Robert Moses, Smithfield Township Planning Commission