The League of Women Voters Responds to Rep Curry


Below is the June 3rd Letter to the Editor sent by Rep Lawrence H. Curry (D) District 154 and the response by the League of Women Voters.

BTW, if you don’t think we are gerrymandered then look at Rep. Curry’s signoff, “Montgomery”. His District 154 also has part of the city of Philadelphia, officially: Part of Philadelphia County, consisting of the City of Philadelphia, (PART, Ward 35 [PART, Division 01] (according to the PA House Document – see the Link on the lower right to the actual current document). If the document is out of date then get it fixed.  If it is not, then Rep. Curry doesn’t know who he represents.  Is that not an argument for “more understandable districts”, so that at least the Representatives understand who they represent? And if he doesn’t know who he represents, then how could the voters possibly know? Plus I wonder how his Philadelphia constituents feel when they see that they don’t even count to him.

Let Representative Curry know he’s wrong about redistricting: http://www.pahouse.com/Curry/contact.asp

Wise Move
By refusing to green light an imperfectly crafted bill to “reform” Pennsylvania’s redistricting process, State Rep. Babette Josephs acted wisely (“Only you can slay the gerrymander,” May 31).
Letting elected officials abrogate their responsibility by dumping the task of redistricting into the lap of the Legislative Reference Bureau is no solution. Genuine reform will give the task to the Reapportionment Commission, which can deal with the specific factors the Supreme Court requires be considered in redistricting. It is a sociological, mathematical and political process.
Philadelphians should feel proud they have a legislator who investigates issues, thinks through the consequences, and makes reasoned judgments based on facts.
State Rep. Lawrence H. Curry
(D., Montgomery)
Harrisburg

Response:

H.B. 2420 would depoliticize redistricting by putting the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau in charge. The bureau’s director claims his staff lacks necessary skills. But in Iowa, the model for non-partisan redistricting on which H. B. 2420 is based, one attorney, one computer systems specialist, and one temporary data worker, employees of the Legislative Services Agency, carry out redistricting. If Pennsylvania’s geography requires additional mapping expertise, the bureau could hire experts from Pennsylvania’s universities. The director fears redistricting would compromise the non-partisan reputation of the Bureau. H.B. 2420, however, rules out partisan maneuvers such as considering recent voting patterns, voter registration data, and incumbents’ addresses in drawing district lines. In addition, the transparency of the process will demonstrate impartiality.

Rep. Curry is right. Redistricting is not just a mathematical process. That is why HB 2420 creates and Advisory Commission made up of private citizens to conduct widespread public hearing on a preliminary plan. At the hearings, any citizen or group of citizens including legislators can address issues such as adequate representation for ethnic minorities and communities of interest. The Commission makes recommendations to the Bureau based on those hearings. H.B. 2420 requires a public record of all redistricting communications and widespread publication of proposed plans. In the end, the entire legislature must go on record as approving or disapproving the plan. Anyone who believes the final plan does not take into account factors required by the Supreme Court and appeal to the Supreme Court.

HB 2047 sponsored by Rep. Curry, though not as strong or comprehensive as HB 2420, would improve the current system. It would assign both Congressional and Legislative redistricting to the Reapportionment Commission that is now in charge of legislative redistricting. As in HB2420, assigning Congressional redistricting to the bipartisan Commission would prevent the lopsided partisan gerrymander that took place in 2001 when one party controlled both housed of the General Assembly and the Governorship. The bipartisan Commission is composed of the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate plus a fifth member they select to serve as chair. Though fairer to both parties, this is the same commission that engineered the bipartisan gerrymander that resulted in our current crazy quilt legislative district maps. Curry’s bill does have some anti-gerrymandering criteria and requires that the commission must file a finding as to why any proposed deviation is necessary. It also requires public hearings during the public comment period following the filing of a preliminary plan.

Lora Lavin, Vice President for Issues and Action
League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania

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