The Right of the Governed

The Fourth of July commemorates the abiding right of the governed to alter or abolish any form of government that ignores the people’s voice. That right was enshrined in the Pennsylvania Constitution, which declares that “all power is inherent in the people” who have “at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”

Supporters of redistricting reform consider those words this year with sadness. Some of us have spent thirty years asking for redress of an unfair redistricting process and an increasingly

intransigent legislature. More recently, we have attempted every lawful avenue of request, petitioning our legislators in every way we know, with meetings, calls, emails, letters, postcards, op-eds, billboards, radio ads, petitions, resolutions of support. All have been met with silence, or with empty statements of support by those who could schedule a vote or easily move this reform forward.

Many legislators from both sides of the aisle applaud and affirm our efforts. They know that the current system puts far too much power in the hands of just a few leaders, allowing men elected by a tiny fraction of PA voters to draw district lines, set legislative agenda and lock out any voice of dissent.

Those who hold the levers of power have ignored or blocked our continued petitions.

In the past month we have sent sign-on letters, signed by hundreds of constituents, to Senate leaders Joe Scarnati, Jake Corman, and Senate State Government Committee Chair John DiSanto. No response.

We have asked Majority Leader, now Speaker Bryan Cutler, and House State Government Committee Chair Garth Everett for a vote on bills but received no assistance and no acknowledgement of the pressing deadline, now passed, for enacting this reform.

Thousands of Fair Districts PA supporters have now seen how arbitrary and unresponsive our state legislature has become.

Dozens have asked legislators for meetings and had no acknowledgment of the request.

Dozens have contacted legislators only to be told “I’ll let you know if I have questions. I see no reason to meet.”

Dozens have met with legislators who say “this is a Democrat bill” or “you’re a Democrat group” (both untrue!) as if that negates the request or absolves them of the need to consider its merits.

We’ve watched with sadness as bills introduced with one or two sponsors speed through both chambers without public comment, expert testimony or any evidence of public support.

We’ve listened with sadness as friendly legislators explain that “the bills that move are the ones leaders choose. It has nothing to do with what voters want.”

We grieve as fellow supporters turn away in disgust, with the sad refrain, “Why bother.”

Our government is in a dangerous place: unaccountable, unresponsive, deeply divided, less and less able to hear the voices of those it promises to serve.

Unless our legislators return this summer, it is now too late to amend the PA constitution and institute an independent commission for legislative redistricting in time for 2021. But there are other possible remedies: strong guardrails on the current redistricting processes, immediate attention to legislative rules that put far too much power in the hands of too few leaders.

But what we want most: a change of heart, a course correction in the halls of Harrisburg. Voters’ voices should matter to every PA legislator. ALL PA voters, not just the party faithful in a handful of leaders’ home districts.

Until this changes, nothing changes.

The Fair Districts PA leadership team:

Carol Kuniholm, Exton
Amy Ruffo, Lancaster
Patrick Beaty, Huntingdon Valley
Ruth Yeiser, Schwenksville
Keith Forsyth, Philadelphia
Mark Pavlovich, West Chester
Rich Rafferty, Lafayette Hill
Susan Fudurich, Monaca
Lisa Hyatt Cooper, Bryn Athyn
Jennifer Wood, Aliquippa
Don Goldstein, Meadville
Doug Webster, Monroeville
Sally Trump, Womelsdorf
Tony Crocamo, West Hempfield Twp.
Andrew C. Marshall, Philadelphia
Denise A. Seilhamer, Butler
Carla Colangelo, Allentown
Denise Williams, Shavertown
Lex O. McMillan III, Gettysburg
Lori Davis Mitzel, Harrisburg
Jean Handley, Harrisburg
Rachel Sorokin Goff, Elkins Park
Jeff Greenwald, Allentown
Mary C. Erdman, Orefield
Susan Best, Philadelphia
Chris Bronder, Hanover
Anthony Roache, Reading
Sidney Hess, Glen Mills
Kitsy McNulty, Pittsburgh
Lauren Hopkins, Clearfield
Luanne Y. Salaga, Sharpsville
Charles Day, Philadelphia
Shawndra Holmberg, Butler
Chris Eng, Sayre
Karin Welles Tatum, Philadelphia
Bill Gross, Merion
Debbie Trudeau, State College
Tobin Short, State College
Connie Hester, Shaler
Willem H. van den Berg, Howard
Janet M. Lorenz, Philadelphia
Alina Keebler, Pittsburgh
Laura Richlin, Philadelphia
Juliet Christopher, Downingtown
Agatha Andrews, Philadelphia
Maureen Grosheider, Wexford
Liza Jane Beranrd, Berwyn
Katherine Dale, Avondale
Sara Stroman, Philadelphia
Ardith Talbott, Solebury
Suzanne Broughton, Town of McCandless
John W. Bryner Chambersburg
Kathryn Anne Holmberg, Butler
Katherine E. Fagan, Philadelphia
Fritz Walker, Allentown
Stanley Chepaitis, Indiana
Steve Elfelt, Altoona
Doug Gordon, Philadelphia
Michele Cann, Bethlehem
Paul Carpenedo, Erie
Ilya Knizhnik, Philadelphia
Michael Buchanan, Carlisle
Diana G Dakey, Dalton
Barbara Neumuller, Port Matilda
John Magee, Chambersburg
Joseph F McLaughlin Pittsburgh
Susan O Wood, Mount Gretna
Ron Williams, Pennsylvania Furnace
Patricia Rooney, Honey Brook
Lawrence Husick, Tredyffrin Twp
Greg Kamprath, Philadelphia
Denice Rodaniche, Altoona
Norman Cook, Chambersburg
Ronni Cook, Chambersburg

Print & send to legislative leaders

Speaker Bryan Culter
33G Friendly Dr
Quarryville 17566

House State Government Committee Chair Garth Everett
Penn Hills Plaza
21 Kristi Rd Ste 1
Muncy, PA 17756

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman
236 Match Factory Place
Bellefonte, PA 16823

Senate State Government Committee Chair John DiSanto
7 W. Main St., PO Box 236
New Bloomfield, PA 17068