Redistricting Talk Impresses Township Board

Redistricting Talk Impresses Township BoardLOWER FREDERICK PA – Township supervisors said they were so impressed with a Tuesday (Jan. 30, 2018) night presentation about Pennsylvania congressional redistricting, made by local resident Chuck Yeiser, that they agreed to consider offering Lower Frederick’s public support to change the political process by which districts are redrawn every 10 years.

Yeiser, chairman of the Lower Frederick Planning Commission, appeared during the supervisor’s workshop meeting at the municipal building to represent the non-partisan Fair Districts PA organization. He came armed with a 35-minute slide show to explain how the federal census is intended to provide population statistics that ensure all state residents have an equal voice in the House of Representatives.

The problem, Yeiser said, is that computerized demographic tools increasingly allow Congress to manipulate district boundaries so their voting constituencies favor one major political party to the exclusion of another. Known as gerrymandering, the process minimizes fairness and also creates districts containing municipalities that share little in common, he argued.

The Perkiomen Valley represents a case in point, experts claim. With some exceptions, many of its borough and township leaders agree on what Valley residents need and want from the federal government. Yet its municipalities are divided across three congressional districts: with Collegeville, Trappe, Schwenksville, and part of Perkiomen in the 6th District; another part of Perkiomen and Skippack in the 7th; and Lower and Upper Frederick, and Lower and Upper Salford in the 8th.

The geographic divisions affect residents here and in other districts statewide, Yeiser noted, by making it difficult to get unified congressional action on legislation of interest to adjoining communities. They also apparently violate state law. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling handed down in late January supports that view, and it ordered the district map to be redrawn by Feb. 19.

Fair Districts PA wants to go one more step, according to Yeiser, and force the state to require citizen participation in the way both House and Senate districts are formed. Bills to do that have already been introduced in both chambers. He asked supervisors to pass a model resolution supporting the legislation.

All three board members – Bob Yoder, Terry Sacks and Marla Hexter, as well as Solicitor Tom Keenan – congratulated Yeiser for what they called an “informative and valuable” discussion. Yoder deferred immediate action, saying he wanted to spend more time reading through the proposal. Yeiser was invited to return to the board’s Feb. 6 general meeting, at which supervisors promised to revisit the issue.

Related (to the Lower Frederick Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 30 meeting):

Graphic from Fair Districts PA