Protect Voters’ Interests

November 14, 2018

American voters are said to be deeply divided along just about any political, social, cultural or economic line you care to draw — red/blue, black/white, north/south, urban/rural and on and on. It is apparent from one Election Day result, however, that Americans could not be more unified on one issue: they want and end to politician-controlled gerrymandering. Voters in three significantly different states — Colorado, Michigan and Missouri — overwhelmingly approved ballot referendums Nov. 6 to strip politicians of the power to redraw congressional and legislative districts, and give it instead to independent citizen commissions or other nonpartisan bodies. A similar referendum appeared headed to passage in Utah, where votes still were being counted Monday. Ohio voters approved the conversion in May, and California and Arizona voters did so earlier. Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court threw out a grotesquely gerrymandered map for this year’s congressional elections and commissioned a much fairer one, is among states including Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin and Maryland where gerrymandering remains alive but under pressure in the courts. State legislators pulled yet another bait and switch in the last session, keeping alive a state constitutional amendment to turn over redistricting to an independent commission, but then letting it die on the vine. As it now stands, lawmakers themselves again will control redistricting following the 2020 census, thus ensuring that they will try to cling to their power by crafting districts in which they choose their own voters. Shamefully, and as if to put an exclamation point on the Legislature’s bad governance, it has taken a state Supreme Court decision and millions of voters in other states to declare emphatically that gerrymandering is an unwanted relic of the 19th century. Pennsylvania voters deserve the same opportunity as those in the other states to eliminate gerrymandering. State lawmakers should start protecting the voters’ interests rather than their own, and make sure that they have that opportunity no later than the 2020 primary election.

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