Read Tim Potts’ Email about Redistricting – Tim helped overturn the Legislature’s illegal salary increases


13 Days to Deadline
Six years ago it was obvious that Pennsylvania’s system for drawing the boundaries of legislative districts was broken. Lawsuits sought to toss it, but our ever-compliant Supreme Court once again let legislative leaders mock the plain language of the Constitution, disenfranchising millions of voters and giving PA the second most gerrymandered districts in America, behind only Georgia.

Six years later, the news isn’t much better. Two weeks ago, House State Government Committee Chair Babette Josephs, D-Phila., refused to allow the committee to discuss a consensus proposal (HB 2420) that had 92 co-sponsors, including Josephs herself. Last week, the minority chair of the Senate State Government Committee, Anthony Williams, D-Phila., succeeded at having similar legislation (SB 346) tabled.

Josephs explained her tactic by saying that the agency designated to draw the new boundaries a) couldn’t do the job, and b) couldn’t remain free of corruption if it did. The agency is the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), which has a 100-year-plus record of non-partisanship.

There are at least two problems with Josephs’ defense. First, no one is asking the LRB to do the job now. It would have three years to prepare. Second, it’s precisely the LRB’s record of non-partisanship that makes it a worthy nominee. If they can do it for 100 years, they’re probably professional enough to do it again.

Others share Josephs’ concern that the LRB, whose employees are appointed by legislative leaders, ultimately would be corrupted by that relationship. It’s a rare confession about the culture of corruption, and Josephs might get away with it if only she had proposed an alternative. Or if she simply advanced another state-of-the-art proposal by Rep. Tom Tangretti, D-Westmoreland, that has been sitting in her committee without action for a year and five months.

In typical Capitol fashion, the Josephs and Williams procedures gave lawmakers a two-fer. Not only did they prevent action as the June 23 deadline approaches, but they did it in a way that allows every lawmaker to claim that he or she never voted against the actual legislation.

Currently legislative leaders to draw the boundaries, a conflict of interest so blatant that it repels anyone with a shred of ethical grounding. The results were and still are bad news for democracy because they produce elections where there is no competition. CLICK HERE for three examples of especially conspicuous gerrymanders.

Defenders of the status quo claim that the system adopted after the Constitutional convention of 1967 has resulted in a majority (103) of House seats changing from Republican to Democrat (or vice versa).

But that also means that in 40 years, the party elected to 100 House seats has not changed. Which is remarkable considering how many events with huge political implications occurred during those 40 years, including three wars, two energy crises, Watergate, the Reagan Revolution, high-ranking state legislators going to jail, and the ever-popular Pay Raise of 2005.

Yet 100 House seats didn’t change political hands.

Defenders of the status quo claim that the lack of competition occurs because voters are happy with the performance of incumbents. First, there hasn’t been much performance. Second, there has been no performance at all on a great many issues (both policy issues and governance issues) that citizens care about.

In truth, our political leaders have stacked the deck in so many parts of the state that more than half of November’s elections (113 out of 203 in the House and 19 out of 25 in the Senate) will be as meaningless as elections in the old Soviet Union. This may be good for political leaders, but it’s not good for governance and not good for citizens. And it’s not the democratic system lawmakers take an oath to protect.

Questions

Three of the four legislative leaders who are responsible for this degradation of democracy are still in office. Will rank-and-file lawmakers elect the same leaders to do the 2011 redistricting plan?
Will rank-and-file members demand an honest redistricting plan as a requirement for their votes for leaders?
Speaking of Degrading Democracy
Nothing is more sacred in a democracy than elections where citizens make choices that change their government, which is why political leaders go to such lengths to control the outcome.

On Monday, June 16th at 7:00 p.m., “Uncounted” by Emmy award winning director David Earnhardt will be screened in the East Wing Rotunda of the state Capitol in Harrisburg. Admission is FREE and open to the public, thanks to the Common Cause Education Fund and VOTEPA.

The documentary alleges that election fraud changed the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election and led to greater fraud in 2006, placing PA at particular risk in 2008. There will be a Q&A session after the film, featuring Marybeth Kuznik from Wetmoreland County, who appears in the film.

For information call 717-232-9951.

We can be reached at: P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013 us

 © Democracy Rising Pennsylvania 2001-2008. All Rights Reserved.

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