When I first ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, part of my platform was to fight for fair redistricting – to take politics out of the process of drawing legislative districts and increase competition in elections. Since my election, this is something I have worked hard to achieve.
In Harrisburg, I have worked side-by-side with like-minded Republicans and Democrats to bring about real change. I introduced legislation to make the redistricting process more transparent to the public and have worked with citizen supporters of fair districts and the Fair Districts PA organization to increase citizen involvement and reduce the influence of politicians.
This work – and the promise it held for rebuilding the people’s trust in government – was dashed by the release of a clearly “packed” House district map proposal (see below). These maps were drawn to virtually guarantee a Democrat or Republican will win each district. The hope for taking partisanship out of this process fails with this map.
Those of us who believe in independent redistricting free of partisanship believe we must follow the metrics by which courts and other professionals “grade” maps.
- The map chills competition. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the proposed map an F grade on competitiveness. Dave’s Redistricting App, a website dedicated to creating and analyzing district maps, says the proposed map is 27% LESS competitive than the current districts. (By comparison, the proposed Senate map received a C grade from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.)
- Districts are not compact. While Pennsylvania has some obvious geographic challenges to compactness, the proposed map is 28% and 30% LESS compact than the current map based on the Polsby-Popper and Reock scales, respectively.
- It is weak on population equity. Our state Constitution mandates each district have approximately the same number of residents, and per the U.S. Supreme Court, the commonly accepted deviation from this standard is 5% over or under the ideal population size and 10% for the overall map. The proposed map just squeaks in at 9.28%, meaning there is wide variation in district populations leaving some citizens underserved and others overserved.
- It utilizes purely partisan tools to achieve its goals. The new districts in Bucks County are “packed.” As I learned in my work on fair redistricting, “packing” is when you put as many voters from a party into a district to make it “safe” for that party and to make other districts safer for the other party. The new maps split Northampton Township by putting three districts in Langhorne. Northampton has one fire department, one police department, and is in one school district. There is no logical reason to break up Northampton Township.
One might think I would be happy with this proposed map as my district has been packed with my own party, making it less competitive. But as someone who has long fought for fairness in redistricting, I am not. As a constituent who has been dedicated to redistricting reform said, “I have worked on this project for over five years, and I am so disheartened.”
The proposed legislative map is not good for our residents, our state or our country. It only continues to sow the division that is hurting our communities. Thankfully, there is something you can do about it.
I urge every resident of Pennsylvania to make your voice – and your displeasure – heard during the public comment portion of this process which ends on Jan. 18. You can do so by visiting www.redistricting.state.pa.us/comment/ and making it clear that you do not support the current partisan gerrymandered proposal. Tell the Redistricting Commission to go back to the drawing board.
Wendi Thomas represents the 178th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. RepThomas.com. Facebook.com/RepThomas.
5 thoughts on “Rep. Wendi Thomas: New maps for House districts are unfair and less competitive”
The “fair” district org I think is a baby of The League of Women Voters = progressive. They partnered with the two Dem lawyers I bel from Lehigh Valley who started the lawsuit which led to the last redrawing of the maps. Remember when the Repub legislature was caught off guard missed deadline and lost in court. Gov Wolf had an expert from California draw them Feb 2018, just in time for the midterms! Dems want PA all blue, Repubs are always okay with purple! Explains a lot. 🙂
If Republicans are “always ok with purple”, can you explain what they’ve been doing in Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin? Can you explain why the Republican appointed conservative SCOTUS judges struck down the VRA and greenlit partisan gerrymandering? Can you explain why GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller wrote in his emails that he wanted to rig districts in a way that would benefit “Republicans and non-hispanic whites”?
Regarding the Fair Districts lawsuit – yes, of course Republicans aren’t going to join a lawsuit challenging maps that give them an unfair advantage. I’m not sure how even a non-partisan group would have been able to find such lawyers. And in terms of the GOP legislature being “caught off guard” and missing a deadline – are you similarly concerned with voters who get “caught off guard” and miss voter registration deadlines? Just wondering.
Give me a freaking break. The GOP opposes gerrymandering all of a sudden? The PA GOP has blocked every effort that’s been made to establish a non-partisan process.
Go complain about gerrymandering to the GOP controlled Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin state legislatures, the CONSERVATIVE SCOTUS judges who gutted the VRA and the REPUBLICAN redistricting strategists who were caught red handed trying to rig districts in order to benefit “Republicans and non-hispanic whites” (their own actual words).
Do Republicans really expect anyone to listen to them when they start complaining about gerrymandering?
The Republican howl when the Democrats draw the districts which serves Democrat candidates. Democrats howl when Republicans draw the district in favor of Republicans. That is the way it has been since Willian Penn!
This is not a symmetrical “both sides” issue like you are implying.
It was exclusively GOP appointed activist SCOTUS judges who gutted the VRA and greenlit partisan gerrymandering in 2019.
Republicans have benefitted from gerrymandering in US Congress far more than Dems for generations and with a +7.1 seat advantage in the last cycle.
When it comes to state legislatures, it’s FAR more egregious in favor of Republicans. Radical Republicans in Wisconsin, for instance, won 63% of the state house seats with 50% of the vote. There is simply no Democratic analogue in any state.