HARRISBURG — The Capitol Rotunda was filled Tuesday with activists calling for redistricting reform.
“By any measure, Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country,” said Carol Kuniholm of Fair Districts PA. “Our current redistricting process allows politicians to choose their voters rather than voters choosing their politicians. Their goals are to protect incumbents and control the levers of power to set the legislative agenda in Harrisburg and our nation’s capital.”
Pennsylvania is home to funny looking districts. The outline of one looks like and is amusingly called Goofy kicking Donald Duck, which is not at all amusing to the activists gathered on the Rotunda steps.
“We are citizens of a free democracy and we deserve our votes to be counted,” said Dr. Joan Duvall Flynn, president of the Pennsylvania NAACP.
Cumberland County commissioners agree and joined the rally.
“It’s an embarrassment,” Commissioner Jim Hertzler (D) said of the political map.
Cumberland is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, but it doesn’t have a resident congressman or state senator. Three of its six state representatives don’t live in Cumberland County.
“We were treated as an afterthought. I thought our citizens were treated as second-class citizens,” Hertzler said of the last map-making process.
He pointed to the state constitution, which says counties and communities should not be split “unless absolutely necessary.”
“Mechanicsburg Borough was split in two between (Congressmen) Barletta and Perry. It made no sense to divide one of our boroughs in Cumberland County in two,” Hertzler said.
“If you’re in a district that stretches for miles and miles and miles, it’s hard sometimes to get the eyes and ears of your representative,” fellow Cumberland County Commissioner Vince DiFilippo (R) said.
Activists said they’ve been trying to get the eyes and ears of House and Senate leaders who have bottled up bills that would create an independent redistricting commission. They insist they’re being ignored but are not going away.
“We pay them,” Flynn said of lawmakers. “We pay them, and they don’t even meet with us.”
A Senate spokesperson said that chamber cannot hold public hearings on redistricting because it is being sued over redistricting by the League of Women Voters. Kuniholm called that response “utter nonsense” because the public hearing would discuss the redistricting process moving forward, not the lawsuit that involves the 2011 maps.
The group also called on Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) to bring up the House bill on redistricting and hold a public hearing. Metcalfe’s office did not respond to repeated calls for comment.