Bethlehem Press

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Norco backs redistricting fairness

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Following every census, Pennsylvania’s top legislative leaders huddle to slice up state and Congressional districts. This is called redistricting and reapportionment. But instead of drawing up compact boundaries that preserve communities as much as possible, our legislators have drawn up districts that make little sense unless the goal is to protect an incumbent in office.

One need only look at Congressman Charlie Dent’s district to see what is happening. His roots are in Allentown, and over the years, he served the Lehigh Valley as a State Representative, State Senator and U.S. Congressman. He has faced Democratic opposition in his races for Congress, but has always come out on top.

But his margins of victory must have been too close for the state power structure, and his Congressional District was completely reconfigured along Route I-78, extending from Easton to Harrisburg’s suburbs. Instead of being our Lehigh Valley Congressman, he’s the Congressman from I-78. This is unfair to the people he represents and is probably even unfair to him.

State Senator Lisa Boscola, a Democrat, and State Rep. Dave Parker, a Republican, have introduced bipartisan legislation to slay the gerrymander. Instead of permitting state legislators to carve up districts to protect each other, this legislation will establish an independent commission to do the redistricting, made up of non-politicians. Though it’s too late for this to pass in the current legislative session, numerous Lehigh Valley state legislators, both Democrat and Republican, are cosponsors And at their Oct. 20 meeting, Northampton County Council adopted a resolution urging the state legislature to end gerrymandering. The vote was 8-0,with Matt Dietz being absent.

“At least we have added our voice for fair and equitable redistricting,” said Peg Ferraro, a long-time proponent of redistricting reform who sponsored this legislation. Glenn Geissinger, who has personal experience with a gerrymandered district as a former congressional candidate, said the way redistricting is done is “a system that makes absolutely no sense.” Ken Kraft, who cosponsored Ferraro’s resolution, said Northampton County Council has always done its redistricting fairly. “If we can do it, so can they” he said.