End "safe seats" in Harrisburg

Think Congress is doing a good job? Congress’s approval rating is 19%, yet 15 of Pennsylvania’s 18 representatives were re-elected in 2016. No seats changed parties, and 4 were not even challenged.

Think the Pennsylvania state legislature is doing a good job? Despite constant budget fiascos over the past several years, 86% of Pennsylvania state senators and representatives ran unopposed in the 2016 primary and 48% had no challenger from the other party in the general election.

If we’re so unhappy with our representatives, why do they keep getting re-elected? The culprit is gerrymandering, when district boundaries are intentionally drawn to create an advantage for one party. These districts often look like Rorschach tests: bizarre shapes that have no relevance to reality.

PA Congressional District 7
Heavily gerrymandered PA Congressional District 7, truly a bizzare shape

Gerrymandering creates “safe seats”, where legislators are virtually guaranteed victory every election. It is done by both parties, and it is damaging to our democracy. Legislators who know they are in a “safe seat” often have little incentive to listen to their constituents, even those in their own party. Pennsylvania went nine months without a budget, but 91% of the senators and representatives were sent back to Harrisburg, and no incumbents were defeated.

Fortunately, a bipartisan movement to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania is growing. Senators Lisa Boscola (Democrat) and Mario Scavello (Republican) have sponsored Senate Bill 22, which will create an independent commission to ensure that legislative districts are not created to benefit one party or keep incumbents safe from their constituents.

This is a chance to end partisan gridlock in Harrisburg, a goal that benefits citizens of every political party. I encourage everyone to contact their state senator and urge them to support Senate Bill 22. Their answers will reveal whether they are in Harrisburg to make Pennsylvania a better place, or just to protect their safe seats and paychecks.

You can learn more about the growing fair district movement at fairdistrictspa.com