When I think of Pennsylvania and its notably gerrymandered Congressional districts, I usually think of the 7th.
And when I think of the 7th Congressional District, I think of Bullwinkle.
Not because Republican Patrick Meehan, who holds the seat, reminds me of Bullwinkle.
Rather, because, well, I think you can see for yourself.
When the Washington Post named the nation's most gerrymandered districts back in 2014, Pennsylvania's 7th was right up there near the top.
And it is one of the primary examples for why we have gridlock in Washington.
As writer Christopher Ingraham explained: "Contrary to one popular misconception about the practice, the point of gerrymandering isn't to draw yourself a collection of overwhelmingly safe seats. Rather, it's to give your opponents a small number of safe seats, while drawing yourself a larger number of seats that are not quite as safe, but that you can expect to win comfortably."
A gerrymandered district does two things: it neutralizes a portion of the opposite party's voting population, which is its intended purpose, and it makes compromise increasingly impossible because House members need not appeal to a broad range of voters, but can win just by appealing to their base.
Congressional districts used to be fairly evenly shaped, back when politicians were adults and they recognized they had to represent the district's population as it exists in the real world.
Now, rather than win a race to represent a community, you change the community so you can win the race.
Consider; this is the evolution of the seventh district over the last 60 years:
One might accurately call it de-evolution.
There is no good reason for the changes you see above other than electoral advantage.
Does anyone really believe that Pennsylvanians along the Delaware/Maryland border should be represented by the same person who represents the people in rural Pike Township in Berks County?
It's certainly not done for the benefit of the constituents. It's done for the benefit of, in this case, the Republican candidate.
Do not be so naive as to believe that when Democrats are in the majority, they don't do the same thing.
But since Republicans now dominate the state house, they are the primary perpetrators of this crime against democracy and they have become devastatingly craven about it.
And while it helps them get elected, it has helped drag Pennsylania's electoral integrity down to the level of countries like Cuba, Bulgaria or Hungary. This according to a recent analysis by The Electoral Integrity Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University and the University of Sydney in Australia.
The project evaluated states' electoral systems based on interviews with more than 700 political scientists. Researchers scored states on the perceived integrity of 11 aspects of the electoral process, from how congressional and legislative districts are drawn to how votes are cast and counted.
|Even Alabama, Florida and West Virginia have a better electoral integrity score than Pennsylvania. We're tied with Mississippi.|
“What jumps out (with Pennsylvania's results) is gerrymandering,” Harvard political scientist Pippa Norris told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in December.
She was referring to the state's score of 11 out of 100 for the way it draws legislative and congressional district boundaries. Only Wisconsin and North Carolina scored worse.
"Congressional redistricting proposals must be approved by the full Senate and House and signed by the governor. In Pennsylvania's past two redistricting processes, Republicans controlled the Senate, House and governor's mansion — effectively giving the GOP control over the drawing of congressional districts," Tribune-Review writer Tom Fontaine wrote in December.
Norris told him many districts are gerrymandered to favor one party or another in such a way that incumbents become virtually unbeatable, often resulting in less competition. That makes elected officials less accountable and less responsive to constituents and contributes to gridlock in Washington, she said.
The next redistricting will occur after the 2020 Census.
Safe races also mean incumbents are actually dis-incentivized from reaching across the aisle or taking positions out of step with their base.
They are more likely to be ousted in a primary by a base that feels betrayed than by a candidate from the other party in the general election. This means no compromising in Washington, lest they have to face the music back home.
This endless reelection of incumbents also dis-incentivizes voters from going to the polls because barring a sex scandal of the most repellent nature, nothing ever changes.
President Trump says he wants to investigate election fraud. But with gerrymandering, the fraud occurs before the votes are even cast.
Not that I hold out any hope he'll take me up on my suggestion, but if he really wants to improve the integrity of U.S. elections, he might start here.
He should contact a non-profit coalition called "Fair Districts PA," which includes Common Cause PA and the League of Women Voters and has undertaken the uphill fight to try to convince those in power that politicians should not "choose their own voters."
In the last legislative session, the coalition endorsed companion bills Senate Bill 484, introduced by Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh County), and House Bill 1835, introduced by Rep. David Parker (R-Monroe County). Both bills sought to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to establish an independent citizens redistricting commission with clear standards to ensure public input and a fair, non-partisan outcome.
Let's take back control of our government.
Otherwise, we get this: