Remove politics from the process of mapping districts
The unfairness of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania never has been more obvious than in the wake of the most recent congressional elections. Despite a substantial registration advantage and an aggregate plurality of about 80,000 votes, Democrats lost 13 of 18 congressional seats.
Now state Rep. Daylin Leach, a Democrat who long has advocated against gerrymandering, has drawn an illustrative map based on the most recent election that points not only to the insult to democracy inherent in gerrymandering, but how the state process adversely affects governance.
Without changing a single vote from the 2012 elections, Leach drew a map that flipped eight districts from Republican to Democrat.
"So who here is relevant, the voter or the guy drawing the lines?" Leach asked.
It's the guy drawing the lines, because he chooses the candidates' voters rather than the voters choosing the candidates.
The gerrymander skews not only politics but actual governance because of the way it connects geographic regions and demographic groups for the purpose of producing particular outcomes. Current maps favor Republican candidates by tying together suburban and rural interests rather than suburban and urban interests - the way the world actually works.
Is it any wonder, then, that Pennsylvania's cities are sinking? State legislative maps are drawn the same way.
The answer isn't to substitute Leach's map for the Republican map. The answer is to make congressional and legislative districting apolitical, inherently favoring neither party.
Pennsylvania needs to abandon its politically controlled redistricting for an independent, apolitical process that ensures not only fair elections but governance that actually reflects conditions on the ground.
It will be all the more urgent if lawmakers are serious about their recent moves toward creating a smaller legislature with larger districts, which must be drawn fairly to ensure that the greater power invested in each lawmaker is in the cause of the commonwealth rather than mere political advantage.