Electoral System Criticized; Pennsylvania's Electoral System Has as Much Integrity as Systems in Cuba, Bulgaria and Hungary, According to a Recent Analysis. [Derived Headline]

By Fontaine, Tom | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

Electoral System Criticized; Pennsylvania's Electoral System Has as Much Integrity as Systems in Cuba, Bulgaria and Hungary, According to a Recent Analysis. [Derived Headline]


Fontaine, Tom, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Pennsylvania's electoral system has as much integrity as systems in Cuba, Bulgaria and Hungary, according to a recent analysis.

The Electoral Integrity Project, affiliated with Harvard University and the University of Sydney in Australia, evaluated states' electoral systems based on interviews with more than 700 political scientists. Researchers scored states on the perceived integrity of 11 aspects of the electoral process, from how congressional and legislative districts are drawn to how votes are cast and counted.

Pennsylvania's overall score of 56 out of 100 tied for fifth- worst among U.S. states, ahead of only Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Arizona.

It also tied the scores of Cuba, Bulgaria and Hungary in the Electoral Integrity Project's global research, which used the same criteria.

"What jumps out (with Pennsylvania's results) is gerrymandering," said Harvard political scientist Pippa Norris, referring to the state's score of 11 out of 100 for the way it draws legislative and congressional district boundaries. Only Wisconsin and North Carolina scored worse.

Legislators redraw congressional, state Senate and state House districts once every 10 years.

Legislative redistricting is done by a five-person panel that includes the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House, along with a fifth person appointed by the four leaders. Critics argue it gives legislative leaders too much clout over rank-and- file members.

"It's one of the factors that keeps rank-and-file legislators in line with what leadership wants them to do. They are always mindful of the possibility of retaliation," said Bob Warner, spokesman for the Pennsylvania chapter of the government watchdog group Common Cause.

Warner said rank-and-file members who step out of line could see their districts redrawn to make it more difficult for them to win re- election. …

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