News junkies like myself this summer will get a fix when learning about criminal charges against the Trump Organization and resulting financial and political damage to the former president, as well as when hearing the latest on COVID-19’s Delta variant and about Bucks County’s new ballot drop boxes.
The biggest clamor, however, will be over redistricting -- you know, that ugly political game called gerrymandering that threatens now to alter Bucks’ Congressional map. It’s so unwelcome, Bucks officials have thrown a punch with a resolution condemning such action.
And I have to agree.
For more than 170 years, the entire county has been represented by the 1st Congressional District. Following the recent U.S. Census Bureau count, however, discussions began with lawmakers in Harrisburg over splitting the 1st District among Bucks and another county. Yikes, local officials screamed, as they unanimously approved a measure that said a district split “would divide our community, create administrative problems and violate fair redistricting principles.”
“I don’t think anybody in Bucks County wants to see that happen -- whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever party you belong to,” said Gene DiGirolamo, county commissioner, a Republican.
Said Democrat commissioner Bob Harvie: “We want to keep Bucks County intact.”
Pennsylvania is one of seven states that will lose a Congressional seat starting with the 2022 midterms, while six states will gain one and Texas get two. (I imagine some of you are thinking, ‘Yea, that’s good news for the GOP.’ But, truly, many of the population that moved to the southern states are Blue voters from up north.) The decennial Congressional apportionment counts are based on data from the 2020 census.
“We are going to forward the resolution to our state House and Senate delegation,” said DiGirolamo. “I think it’s important to let lawmakers know that we want Bucks County to stay whole as one district.”
Bucks’ 54 municipalities and a slice of Montgomery County currently make up Pennsylvania’s 1st District, represented by Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. Statewide, the 18 Congressional seats -- nine held by Republicans and nine by Democrats -- soon will be cut to 17. In 2020, the 1st District voted for Fitzpatrick and for Democrat Joe Biden for president.
“We know that there are other counties that are chopped up into pieces,” said Harvie, “but it would certainly make the job of elected officials, like ourselves, more difficult, and more complicated for voters.”
Congressional lines were last redrawn by an outside expert in 2018, when the state Supreme Court ruled that the map violated a state constitution prohibition on partisan gerrymandering. The ruling addressed a 2011 map approved under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Redistricting must happen, but gerrymandering doesn’t need to be part of the process. An independent redistricting commission without lawmakers should be established to make it work fairly.