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Chester County Press

Gerrymandering promotes political divide

03/06/2017 12:05PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Compromise used to be at the heart of governing. It wasn't that long ago that U.S. lawmakers like Bob Dole and Tip O' Neill were able to work with leaders from both parties to move legislation forward for the betterment of the country. Compromise tended to move the legislation toward the middle ground that would be acceptable to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

These days, compromise is almost non-existent. There has been unprecedented gridlock in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. as a result. Gerrymandering has played a part in the gridlock and the growing political divide.

This week, Kennett Square Borough Council discussed a resolution supporting efforts to bring reform to the redistricting process in Pennsylvania—to have a transparent, impartial, and depoliticized process to draw the boundaries for the state legislative and congressional districts.

The current system is anything but fair, transparent, impartial, and depoliticized.

According to Governing Magazine, Pennsylvania is the tenth-worst state in the country when it comes to gerrymandering. Some of the worst examples of gerrymandering in the state can be found right here in southeastern Pennsylvania, where the sprawling 6th Congressional District contains parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lebanon counties. Republican Ryan Costello currently represents the 6th Congressional District.

The 16th Congressional District, which is comprised largely of conservative Lancaster County, also includes a large portion of southern Chester County on its way, inexplicably, to the City of Reading. The large urban area has nothing in common with the more rural areas of Lancaster County.

Both parties have used and abused gerrymandering for political gain, abandoning any sense of fairness or reason.

The resolution that Kennett Square Borough Council is considering states that the gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts “has worked at times to the detriment of our representative democracy by impeding action on critical issues of importance to the people...”

Indeed it has. Gerrymandering has been used as a weapon against the admittedly flawed two-party system that has dominated the U.S. political landscape, reducing the two-party system to a one-party-always-in-control situation.

If a lawmaker at the state or federal level is elected from a “safe district,” that has been gerrymandered to protect them in future elections, they have less incentive to govern from the middle—where most of us want our representatives at the state and federal level to move toward. Gerrymandering is bad for democracy and it only encourages the political divide by allowing lawmakers to set up camp on the extreme right or the extreme left.

Legislation has been introduced to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to reform the decennial legislative and congressional redistricting process by replacing the current system with one that would be fair, transparent, impartial, and nonpartisan. Residents who think this is a good idea should contact their representatives in Harrisburg and let them know.

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