Bethlehem Press

Thursday, November 22, 2018
press photo by bernie o’hareCecil Blocker and a companion are among about 10 Hanover Township residents who are lobbying to ened the gerrymander, both in congressional and legislative districts. press photo by bernie o’hareCecil Blocker and a companion are among about 10 Hanover Township residents who are lobbying to ened the gerrymander, both in congressional and legislative districts.

HANOVER = Township joins growing chorus for state gerrymandering reform

Monday, August 6, 2018 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

You can add Hanover Townshipp (Northampton County) to the list over 270 counties, cities, townships and boroughs fighting for redistricting reform in Harrisburg. At their July 24 meeting, supervisors voted 3-1 in favor of a resolution supporting a constitutional change that will allow an independent and inclusive commission to draw the boundaries for state legislative and congressional races.

Supporting this nonbinding resolution were Susan Lawless, Michael Prendeville and John Diacogiannis. Voting No was Steve Salvesen. Jack Nagle was absent.

The vote followed a debate in which Salvesen argued that the resolution was not just “outside the Constitution of the United States and state law,” but “might even be in violation of the oath of office we took.” He condemned “activist judges”on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “who decided to become legislators” and draw their own map. He said the current law is very clear and contains no ambiguity.

“It very clearly has not worked,” responded Lawless. Diacogiannis agreed. He acknowledged that no commission is truly independent, but it was time to try something less political. “It may turn out to be just as bad as we have it now,” he said.

Solicitor Jim Broughal advised supervisors that nothing in the resolution is contrary to the Constitution. Salvesen acknowledged that he’s no lawyer.

After the vote, a group of about 10 Fair Districts Pa. members applauded the board. That grassroots group describes itself as a “nonpartisan, citizen-led, statewide coalition working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair.” They included Hanover Township residents Joanne Kelhart, Esq., Jean Shenk and Cecil Blocker.

“My vote doesn’t count,” said Blocker. “I find that to be unacceptable.”

As supervisors turned to other items on the agenda, most of this citizens’ group melted away. Salvesen, a veteran of many political firestorms in his career, said that he had driven them off, and jokingly threatened to bring the matter up again once they were gone.

He need not worry. There will be no redistricting reform in this legislative session. House Speaker Mike Turzai has refused to schedule a vote or debate on redistricting reform, even though a majority of House members now support two bills that would create an independent redistricting commission.