Reader Poll: What is the Better Way to Redraw PA’s State Senate and House Districts

PA-State-House-seats-Feb-2017-300x176This is the year that will decide if reapportionment in 2021 will be conducted by the usual of partisan leadership or done by a non-partisan panel.  

With Democrats controlling the Supreme Court and the GOP with historic majorities in the state Senate and House puts the movement for a change in a political gray area.  

So we put it to our readers, what is the better way to redraw Pennsylvania’s state Senate and House districts?  

[poll id=”275″]

February 28th, 2017 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Poll | 33 Comments

33 thoughts on “Reader Poll: What is the Better Way to Redraw PA’s State Senate and House Districts”

  1. Zakrey Bissell says:

    I think for they should redraw 3 Philadelphia’s State Representative districts 170, 177, and 197 as Republican Districts by Lucinda Little in the 197th District, Martina White in the 170th District, and John Taylor in the 177th District. and the rest Democratic Districts in the Philadelphia Delegation.

  2. PA Observer says:

    The Legislative Reapportionment Commission seems to work just fine, at least when (every cycle but 2011) they try to do their job. Unfortunately in 2011-12, the LRC was a den of idiocy and that’s why the map got tossed out.

    Just move the Congressional lines to the LRC.

  3. Paul Knese says:

    First of all, reduce the number of state rep districts, which is excessive by all accounts. then, draw the lines into a grid across the state, no zig-zag lines or pile districts along party line voters.Simple as that, end of discussion.

  4. Chuckie Porter the rat says:

    Some got algorithm
    Some got music
    We got bribe money
    Who could ask for anything more?

    If they do, we’ll have em whacked

  5. Seneca says:

    For those who advocate computer algorithms to redraw legislative boundaries, it would be worthwhile doing some beta testing for public review. If you wish to leave legislators out of the process, then give the public a chance to decide.

    And why not get two products drawn by computer algorithm for the public to see? The first would be maps of the Senate and House districts at their current number. The second would be maps of Senate and House districts at the number Diano recommends (15 Senators and 50 Representatives).

    Per JQ’s post, ensure that in both cases the algorithm produces boundaries for districts of roughly equal population that also have, “compact and contiguous territory” while not dividing any county, city, township, or other political division.

  6. Killary says:

    Draw them all out of a Job that’s how you draw the lines

  7. Chuckie Porter the rat says:

    The godfather favors a smaller legislature. La familia would save bribe money on fewer reps and senators. It won’t matter which party controls. We work on both sides but democrats are preferable because they come cheaper.

  8. Barbara Blum says:

    Never thoughtI would agree with Diano, at least partially. Use Computer to sort out districts based on 1 person, 1 vote, regardless of party, or regardless of being registered at all. The highways, mountains, rivers are natural boundaries and should be part of the equation. Then the finished product should be finally looked at by a group of retired judges from both parties, a few League of Women Voters, and computer nerds.

    No legislators should have a voice.

  9. jmarshak says:

    For once I completely agree with David Diano and Gulag Pittsburgh.

    Only thing I’d add is TERM LIMITS.

  10. David Diano says:

    Seneca-

    This is some of the dumbest sh*t you have posted. Afraid to leave it in the hands of machines? Are you afraid of Skynet gerrymandering for Terminators?

    Creating and publishing an algorithm that can be evaluated as fair/unbiased is not leaving the process up to the machines, any more than following a blueprint to build a house is leaving a hammer in charge.

    We’ve seen MANY examples of computer generated maps and they have all been significantly better/fairer than the gerrymandered mess we have now.

    As for fewer legislators, the ones we have are lazy, terrible, poorly educated, and often absentee. There simply isn’t enough work to require that many legislators, and with all the gerrymandering, the ones we have are poor representatives of the will of the people.

    This abusive level of gerrymandering didn’t exist when the constitution was created, and has reached the point where it should be considered criminal malfeasance.

  11. Lawrence Husick says:

    FairDistricsPA.com

  12. Mary Ann Falzone says:

    I think the current system is what needs to be completely “repealed and replaced.” Though I hear the security concerns, I still think a computer generated model with very little human intervention is the most fair way to approach this.

  13. JQ Public says:

    We need to get away from the system where legislators pick their voters and get back to a system where voters pick their legislators and members of Congress.

    We need to get away from a system that benefits parties and incumbents and get to a system that is designed to serve people and communities — which is what the Pennsylvania Constitution calls for:

    Ҥ 16. Legislative districts.
    The Commonwealth shall be divided into 50 senatorial and 203
    representative districts, which shall be composed of compact and
    contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable…Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district.”

    One of the benefits of the Iowa system is that party registration can not be used in drawing district boundaries.

    The work done by computer algorithms is supervised by humans who examine whether the results match the constitutional intent. The commission members don’t have a direct stake in the results — they will not be running in an election based on the results of their redistricting plan.

  14. Seneca says:

    Some comments here and elsewhere extol the virtues of computer-generated resolution in defining state legislative districts. Its the currently fashionable bright shining object, to be sure, but its appeal, and shine, wears off on further reflection.

    We have already had enough trouble with our politics in the hands of people we elect. Now we are putting part of the process in the hands of a machine, which is certainly not elected, nor answerable to the current political system as it stands. Objective, impersonal. Not human. But nevertheless, as a human creation, still prone to old and new forms of error by those who write the algorithms, regardless of what proponents might say. It may not gore everyone’s ox equally, but it doesn’t care and has neither caution beforehand nor remorse afterwards. Do we really want to give control to such a beast as this?

    Beyond all this, there is also an accountability issue. We elect, per the state constitution, our legislators to do the task of setting their district boundaries. Remember, voters—and taxpayers—elect them to represent their interests, and to find a way to do so. It’s politics. That is their job, no matter how cleverly they do it. Or how badly.

    Politics in Harrisburg are often unseemly, and the legislative districts often convoluted and gerrymandered, and the process often driven by legislator self-interest, but it is still in the end a process controlled and run by human beings, not machines. That is as it should be. And that is what we elect our legislators for, not machines.

  15. Charles Pont says:

    Iowa adopted a computer algorithm system thinking it would help the Democratic Party gain more seats and the opposite result occurred. The Republicans made more gains there. It is very difficult to draw House, Senate and Congressional districts that reflect a majority Democratic of registered voters in this state when 800,000 of the Democratic one million vote registration advantage live in Philadelphia County. Especially in light of Federal Voting Rights Act requires that minority-majority districts must be drawn whenever it is possible.

  16. Sheila kanter says:

    Don’t like your two choices. You’re giving me “bad” or “worse”. Repubs will always end up with the best. That’s already been proven.
    I’m very cynical these days.

  17. Seneca says:

    Amen, Steve. After all, we elect them and then pay them to do that, even if they do it badly.

  18. steve miller says:

    Both chambers, Both Parties and the Supreme Court draw the lines, what needs changed?

  19. Seneca says:

    15 Senators and 50 Representatives? Really? At any rate, we have two issues here. Numbers of legislators, and costs per legislator. I think we see more eye to eye on the latter than the former.

    Cutting back on salaries, allowances, and other perks has to be done regardless of how many state Senators and Representatives we have. This is the result of programmed COLA increases and the legislature’s control of its own perks. Our legislators each cost too much, and that cost keeps going up, be it 250 or 65.

    But why are fewer legislators better? The more legislators we have, the greater the degree of representation for the average citizen. It is about local interests being represented at Harrisburg, as well as access by the average Pennsylvanian to those who represent us.

    It might not be a problem in terms of time and trouble following consolidation for someone in Montgomery County to visit a legislator in the Philadelphia suburbs. But it would be a lot different for someone in, say Coudersport if they had business with their Senator or Representative in Williamsport., Altoona, or Erie.

    A further evil of cutbacks in legislators would be to give Pennsylvania’s urban areas undue influence in state legislative affairs. Voters and taxpayers in the state’s equivalent of “Flyover Country” have been a sensible and skeptical check on Harrisburg’s excesses in spending and other political abuses. Maybe not as effective as they might want, but still of net benefit to our body politic.

  20. G says:

    Why aren’t you asking about a fairer system for congressional redistricting? this is shilling for the republican party. tsk tsk tsk

  21. David Diano says:

    Frank Baran-

    Craig’s suggestion was so stupid it didn’t even deserve a response. It would give one state senator for the million+ residents of Philadelphia and a senator to a small county with a population around 5,000. That’s a 200-to-1 difference.

    Seneca-
    They could certainly reduce staff and budgets. But, Do we REALLY need 200 state legislators and 50 state senators for Pennsylvania when the US Congress has about twice that number for the entire country?

    We could get by with 50 legislators and 15 state senators.

    Rebecca Hess-

    I agree with computer generated. There should be a small “competition” with the 3 or 4 leading algorithms, each drawing multiple maps with different random starting points, so show overall performance. Then the “best” algorithm is voted upon and the algorithm itself becomes the law, and some random starting point will be selected in 2021 based on the census data. The algorithm needs some definitions/rules for dealing with voting rights act.

    Worst case, the final algorithm gets run with Philly, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh city halls as starting points and the legislators pick one of the three maps generated.

    I doubt there would be enough variation to make a difference no matter which was picked, as all would be fairer than current system.

  22. Rebecca Hess says:

    This is ridiculous. No panels, no parties…a computer algorithm that divides populations by a geographic grid. People are supposed to pick their representative…not the representative picks the people.

    Stop the gerrymandering and lifetime politicians! Do your job if you want to be reelected!

  23. Seneca says:

    Frank, good point well made. But I’d be wary of any redistricting commission unless the voting requirement was a majority of 8 out of 11 votes, to ensure not only minority interests were protected, but to have some degree of buy-in from both parties.

    That said, getting to the commission stage would be the hard part. The Republican majority in Harrisburg will probably not go along with any changes that endanger their legislative primacy. I believe that issue was decided a couple years back with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court elections (thank you, Kathleen Kane).

    Look for little if any cooperation from the Republican-controlled legislature, or any other Republicans, for that matter, in legislative reform. Politics here is a zero-sum game. We may not get very far in it at all, and any changes made will likely be at the expense of even deeper partisanship and underhanded political dealings than exist now.

  24. gulag Pittsburgh says:

    An independent redistricting commission that uses a computer algorithm should be the best system.

  25. Seneca says:

    There seems to be a prevailing belief by proponents of legislative reform that it would be good to cut the number of state legislators. But this won’t provide any long-term relief to taxpayers. What it will do is degrade legislative accountability. Pennsylvania’s legislature, and legislators, are certainly expensive. But it is better to cut costs rather than legislators.

    Unless legislative costs are cut, they will continue to increase. Salaries are already second-highest in the country. But all manner of other costs, from staff allowances to free medical and dental care, also drive up the cost per legislator. There is no reason, for example, why our state senators should each cost about 2 million dollars each in salary, staff expenditures, expenses, and other perks.

    It is doubly wrong to cut legislator numbers. They would be less accountable to the voters, and often less accessible. And any so-called “reforms” resulting in a smaller legislature would also diminish the voice of Pennsylvania’s rural regions while increasing that of the state’s urban areas. Our big cities already have a disproportionately large role in state government. We don’t need it any larger.

    The best way to reduce legislative costs would be to limit staffs, cut per diems and COLAs, and make legislators pay at least part of the health and other benefits they now get free. Otherwise, costs per legislator will keep climbing, no matter the number of state senators and representatives we have in Harrisburg.

  26. Frank Baran says:

    Just a quick thought: Craig’s proposal would be unconstitutional. It violates Baker v. Carr, a 1962 ruling, and Reynolds v. Sims, a 1964 ruling. The latter commonly became known as the “one man, one vote” principle: each district must have approximately the same number of people as another district . Were state senators to be chosen by county, a single voter in Elk County would have more influence in the state Senate than a single voter in Philadelphia County. A procedure similar to the one that you are advocating had to be abolished in the mid-1960s because it violated the one person, one vote principle.
    A superior plan would be to require the use of an independent redistricting commission. Sens. Mario Scavello, a Republican) and Lisa Boscola, a Democrat, introduced S.B. 22 which would end gerrymandering by placing redistricting in the hands of an 11-member commission composed of four Republicans, four Democrats and three voters not affiliated with any political party or political office. A majority of seven votes would be required for a redistricting plan to win approval. The commission would draw districts for state House and Senate seats and for U.S. congressional seats. More information is available at FairDistrictsPA.com

  27. Publius says:

    How about we just abolish districts and move to proportional representation? Or some sort of mixed system.

  28. Van Buren says:

    Why should it be a solid blue state? Because of one, poorly run, corrupt city? Almost all of the rest of the state is red.

  29. CJM says:

    Anything that gets the fascists out of control of what should be a solid blue state

  30. clueless says:

    Citizen panel? what citizen panel I thought congress seats were a bill that the house and senate passes?

  31. Craig says:

    For the State Senate, I’d increase the number of senators to 67 and apportion them one per county so that their districts are coterminous with the county they represent (that eliminates gerrymandering for them completely). For the State House and for Congressmen a simple piece of software could easily draw compact districts from census data: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/13/this-is-actually-what-america-would-look-like-without-gerrymandering/?postshare=4791487789303681&tid=ss_fb&utm_term=.550c19932e71

  32. Keith R says:

    District 12 is an abhorrent example of gerrymandering.

  33. David Diano says:

    You really need a third and more detailed choice:

    computer generated COMPACT districts based upon CENSUS populate data, and not party affiliations, that minimizes crossing of municipal boundaries.

    The only human intervention should be minor tweaking if the algorithm need to comply with voting rights act.

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