Meeting scheduled to fight gerrymandering

Southern Chester County residents – and especially Pocopson Township residents – can learn more about efforts to fight gerrymandering in Pennsylvania during a special meeting May 11.

The meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at Unionville High School, is one of many by Fair Districts PA, a statewide group dedicated to reforming the redistricting process. Gerrymandering is a term used to describe how voting districts are redrawn to benefit those in a particular political party.

Volunteers with Fair Districts PA illustrated to Pocopson Township supervisors Monday night how gerrymandering has affected the township.

In 1992, according to volunteer and township resident Eric Newman, Pocopson was in the 16th U.S. congressional district. That district included a large block of voting precincts from Lancaster west to West Chester, north to Sanatoga and south to the Delaware state line.

Ten years later, when the districts were redrawn following the 2000 census, Pocopson was moved to the 6th District, which had previously included Reading, areas to the west of Allentown, and a section that extended north from Selinsgrove to almost Williamsport, toward the center of the state.

In 2002, the 6th District had shifted south to include the eastern part of Lancaster County, the Coatesville and West Chester areas – including Pocopson -- and parts of Norristown, Conshohocken and Ardmore.

“We were stuck at the bottom of the 6th District,” Newman said. “We don’t know how this happened.”

In 2011, the 6th District shifted again to include the Lebanon area and more of Montgomery and upper Chester counties. Pocopson became part of the 7th District at that point and “was used as a conduit” between two different areas of the district, according to Newman.

“We were called the No. 4 worst gerrymandered district in the nation” in 2014, Newman said.

The result of the redistricting was confusion, he added. One house on Huntsman Lane in Pocopson was listed on a state website as being represented by the 16th District, when it should have been listed as being in the 7th District.

“What happens with these crazy districts is it’s all messed up,” Newman said. “People are confused. And it could get worse if we don’t change the rules.”

Amy Baram, another Pocopson resident and volunteer with Fair Districts PA, said there is support in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives for Fair Districts PA and the redistricting reform. State Rep. Eric Roe, R-158, and Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-135, were planning to introduce a bill that would create an independent citizens commission to oversee future redistricting.

Newman asked Pocopson’s supervisors to consider a resolution in support of the citizens commission.

For more information on Fair Districts PA, go online at www.fairdistrictspa.com.

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About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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