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A key component in a democracy is that citizens and voters, operate on a level playing field. When we exercise our right to vote, it should matter. But when there is a system in which some voters have significantly more impact than others, we have a serious problem. In Pennsylvania today, we are faced with such a problem because of heavily gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts. 

An analysis of the most recent congressional race in 2016 indicated that while the total popular vote was essentially an even split between Republicans and Democrats, Republicans won 13 of the 18 congressional seats (three were uncontested). Simply put, there is often no realistic chance to change a seat’s party affiliation due to gerrymandering. 

A glance at the 11th Congressional district map reveals a district stretching from Tunkhannock in Wyoming County to Shippensburg in Cumberland County. If you were to drive a direct route between these two cities, it would take roughly three hours. Why such an enormous geographic area? The answer is gerrymandering. It carves out a district that leans heavily to the Republican candidate, thus making the seat uncompetitive. 

Another obstacle geography creates is there is often little common interest among the constituents of the district. Why is this important and undemocratic? Because if the seat is deemed “safe” for one party, the elected official has little incentive to be open and flexible to constituent concerns. From the voter’s standpoint, a fairly drawn district offers the potential for a competitive race in which there are real choices and an incentive for candidates to listen to and develop policy that truly represents the will of the people. 

Eliminating gerrymandering should be a bipartisan issue. The intent should be to favor the voter, not political parties or those in power who decide who they want to be their representative. I strongly support the work of Fair Districts PA, SB 22, and HB 722, which call for the establishment of an independent citizens’ commission to draw fair and non-partisan district boundaries. We should uphold the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of one person, one vote and the 1st Amendment’s right to association, not repress our constitutional guarantees. 

Committee to Elect Mike Marsicano
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