Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fix the Congressional Map Now - Then Fix the System

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fix the Congressional Map Now - Then Fix the System

Article excerpt

Pennsylvania Republicans are appealing the state's new congressional map to the nation's highest court, which is reminiscent of the New England Patriots complaining after they were caught cheating in Spygate.

Sure, they know they've rigged the game. But when you've put so much work into finagling the system, and have gotten really good at it, it's an affront to turn the controls over to lesser mortals.

The zigzagged mess that was the Republican congressional district map has been replaced by a more streamlined model commissioned by the Democratic-dominated Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It's indisputable that this new map is more favorable to Democratic hopes in several congressional races, but that's like noting it became somewhat easier for Patriots' opponents to win once New Englanders were barred from videotaping other teams' signals.

It's also true that jiggering the map to favor the party in power did not begin with these Republicans; Democrats played these same games with more primitive technology back when they ran Harrisburg. But gerrymandering never has been about serving the people; it's always been about politicians serving themselves.

So when we hear that this is not the best time to be doing this, so close to the 2018 elections, we agree. The time to do it was generations ago. But let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

"Honestly, it's ludicrous to have legislators saying there's no transparency, and they weren't part of the process, when they have so blatantly shut everyone else out of the process," Carol Kuniholm, chair and cofounder of Fair Districts PA, said last week.

Her group formed only 15 months ago but has had more than 360 public meetings and claims more than 18,000 attendees. Maybe because Pennsylvania is generally at or near the top of any list of the most gerrymandered states, Pennsylvanians are riled about this otherwise wonkish topic. A meeting at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library last March drew a crowd larger than the fire code permitted.

Even if the current map survives the court challenge, fixing it one time isn't enough. A permanent solution, with a nonpartisan board setting state and congressional district boundaries, is needed "or our state will be right back to gerrymandering in 2021. …

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