Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

County commissioners support redistricting reform bill

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to The Press in Local News

The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners took a bold step at its Feb. 22 meeting by passing a resolution supporting redistricting reform.

The 8-1 vote specifically lends support to an independent citizens commission for redistricting. The commission would consist of 11 persons, four from the state’s majority party and four from the minority party. The remaining three would come from any political party. The Pennsylvania secretary of state would elect the members.

Commissioner Amanda Holt voted in opposition.

Commissioner Dan Hartzell, co-sponsor for the bill, expressed support for the legislation.

“This is something that has been picking up public steam,” he said of the issue of redistricting, or gerrymandering. “It’s not something new. It’s been going on for 200 years.”

Commissioner Brad Osborne said while he believes redistricting reform is needed, he is concerned with the adequacy of information provided in the draft resolution.

Commissioner Percy Dougherty said he was confused with the nature of the resolution. Dougherty, nevertheless, said he supported the bill, adding, he “likes the intent.”

“I do agree the system is broken,” Dougherty said. “It’s not working.”

Hartzell asked the board to move forward.

“Let’s try something different,” Hartzell said. “It almost can’t be worse.”

Holt said she could not vote for the resolution unless there was language included indicating an independent commission.

Hartzell said Northampton County Council passed a similar resolution recently.

“My feeling is we can do better,” Hartzell added of redistricting reform.

“We’re looking at one of the moral crises affecting our democracy,” Commissioner Geoff Brace said of the current state of redistricting.