SALISBURY TOWNSHIP, PA — After months of considering whether an independent citizens commission can truly be independent, the Sadsbury Township Lancaster Board of Supervisors voted 2 -1 in favor of redistricting reform and support for an independent citizens commission to draw state legislative and congressional electoral district lines.
“I think we can all agree gerrymandering is wrong,” said Board Chair James Ranck. Board Vice Chair Eugene Lammey led a lively discussion, finally conceding that the process of drawing district lines could be improved. “I agree with you there, sir,” Lammey exclaimed when Fair Districts PA volunteer Tony Crocamo suggested both parties seek advantages not strictly granted them by a win at the ballot box.
Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating electoral district lines for the unfair political advantage of a person or party. It has been common practice in recent decades since there is so much demographic and partisan data available to mapmakers.
After the census when legislators are redistricting state legislative and congressional district lines, the majority party has sought to maximize and cement their electoral advantage by drawing districts they believe will vote for their candidates.
Sadsbury Township Lancaster has been called “gerrymander central” by local resident and proponent of an independent citizens commission, Jacqueline Hamilton. “I want to live in Lancaster County,” Hamilton said. “I used to have [Representative] Bryan Cutler (R-100) as my representative and after 2011 all of a sudden I have [Representative John] Lawrence (R-13).”
Sadsbury Township Lancaster is in the awkward position of having a state representative from Chester County and a state senator from Lancaster County. They are a Lancaster township but without the access of one.
The resolution approved on March 3 by the township Board of Supervisors states that an independent citizens redistricting commission will “require the use of impartial and sound methodology when setting district boundaries; require public input; and fully comply with the constitutional requirement that ‘no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward’ be divided ‘unless absolutely necessary.’”
Addressing Mr. Lammey’s concern about whether any group can be truly nonpartisan, Fair Districts PA advocate Tony Crocamo pointed to Mr. Lammey’s own role as a town supervisor. “Local governments are a great example of nonpartisan governance. Republicans or Democrats, we have the same issues to deal with, whether it be snow removal, water runoff, sewer systems or road repair. We can’t not deal with these issues due to partisanship.”
Two of the first cosponsors of the new Senate Bill 1023, written to match exactly the language in House Bill 23 creating an independent redistricting commission to draw congressional lines were Lancaster Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13).
Senator Martin also cosponsors Senate Bill 1022, which assigns the drawing of state legislative districts to the independent commission.
Sadsbury Township Lancaster joins over 365 municipalities including 22 counties across Pennsylvania in passing a Fair Districts PA Resolution.
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