At last Thursday’s event in Allentown I asked State Rep. Eugene DePasquale how he thought his vote for the GOP Congressional redistricting plan might affect his support in the Lehigh Valley. It is one of the areas in Pennsylvania upset over being split. Traditionally the entire Lehigh Valley has been kept in a single district but now Easton and other areas of Northampton County have been sectioned off into PA-17. Charles Dent (PA-15) has represented it in the past.
The Republican Congressional redistricting plan gained considerable bipartisan support from Democrats because several powerful incumbents decided they liked the make-ups of their new districts and forced their local legislators to side with Republicans in Harrisburg. It was passed in the State Senate without a single public hearing and after its first two readings were waived. DePasquale was one of 36 Democrats to vote for it in the State House.
His explanation that he voted his District sounds fair and he added, off camera, that if someone feels they don’t wish to vote for him for Auditor General because of this vote that is their right.
The attitude that legislators are in Harrisburg, or Washington, for that matter, to vote their Districts is sad. If that were the case we wouldn’t need elections or legislators. We only need switchboards and robots sitting at desks pressing buttons according to feedback.
We elect these people to represent the values and beliefs we feel we share. We send them there to decide matters for the greater good, not only our little corners of the world. On a vote such as this we’d like them to look at the big picture and decide if the map represents the best interests of Pennsylvanians, not only those in York. I like DePasquale a lot but I was disappointed in both his vote and his explanation. Will I withhold my vote next November because of this? As he said, that is my right.
The Republican drawn Congressional redistricting map was released just one day before the Senate voted to approve it late last night. The vote, in fact, came after the 11 PM rule closing Senate business. That rule was put in place to stop the state legislature from passing onerous bills in the dead of night after they voted themselves a 2 AM pay raise of 37%. They violated the rule in passing this similar onerous bill last night.
The 7th CD goes through five counties and is drawn to award Republican Congressman Pat Meehan a safe district. Redistricting is a process wherein elected officials decide, not only who their voters will be, but their opponents. The maps drawn for state House, Senate and Congress all conveniently exclude declared challengers. This cannot be sheer coincidence. It proves intent to gerrymander and protect incumbents and should be the foundation for a court challenge.
The initial vote was 25-25 in the heavily controlled GOP Senate as some in that body feared the wrath of their voters back home. Sen. Vogel then switched his vote and the bill passed 26-24.
Republicans in Harrisburg are so busy blocking women’s abortion rights, denying the poor, disabled and elderly the right to vote and allowing energy companies to rape our land without consequence they can’t get redistricting done. None of them can seem to agree on a plan and time is quickly running out. Candidates cannot announce, organize and fundraise until they know in which district they reside. This, of course, provides a significant edge to the GOP Congressional majority. How convenient.
The Party in complete control of the process is fighting over how to redraw the boundaries while eliminating the one seat Pennsylvania lost due to the 2010 census. While trying, all at once, to force a runoff between Dems Jason Altmire and Mark Critz Rep. Mike Turzai wants to be in that district so he can run for the seat. That also means making it more conservative. Guys like Jim Gerlach want more GOP voters but the likes of Joe Pitts, Pat Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick say “not at my expense.”
It’s become quite a conundrum for Republicans and if that means screwing the voters, the people and their potential opponents all at the same time it appears they’re prepared to do so. This is why we need an independent, non partisan organization doing Congressional reapportionment. If there was ever a better argument for taking the politics out of the process this is it.