Write a letter to the editor: it’s time for a hearing

Legislators are back in Harrisburg this month, and that means it’s time for them to hold hearings on SB22 and HB722, the bills that could amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to end gerrymandering for good.

But despite a flood of calls from constituents during August—and a press conference Tuesday, where more than 100 of our amazing volunteers showed up on the Capitol steps (thank you!)—the State Government committees in both the House and the Senate have no plans to hold hearings. Without these hearings, the bills can never come to a vote in the full legislature.

So it’s time to get even louder: we need letters to the editor blanketing the pages of every newspaper in the state.

Letters to the editor can reach people across the political spectrum and across all demographics. They are easily shared via social media and often more influential to average readers than the official editorials run by the papers. And right now, letters are even more important—because they make sure as many people as possible know about the legislature’s failure to act on these bills.

What to write

Use your letter to help your local community understand this issue, and why hearings are so critical this fall. Here’s what we recommend you include:

Sample letters

For more inspiration, check out these recent letters by Fair Districts PA supporters. Laurie Hess opens her letter in Lancaster Online by connecting the budget gridlock in Harrisburg to gerrymandering:  

It is the middle of September. Pennsylvania still does not have a budget for this fiscal year… Imagine operating this way at your job. Your most important annual task is habitually done late and poorly. You would be fired, and rightly so! 

Fortunately for legislators, they are almost impossible to fire because they get to pick their own bosses (voters)!

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lori Yeghiayan Friedman uses her letter to highlight legislators’ inaction, and point out that while one party is in control right now, both parties are to blame:  

Both bills are in the hands of those in power who, naturally, are reluctant to have that power taken from them. They are stalling, refusing to hold hearings or move the bills forward.

Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg have reasons to continue the status quo. The current maps, drawn by Republicans in 2011, favor the GOP, which holds 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in the U.S. House — or 72 percent — despite winning 54 percent of the statewide congressional vote in 2016. And Democrats may not want things to change, believing they will get their turn to tilt the scales after the 2020 census.

Remember, you don’t need to be a professional writer to have your letter published. You just need to have a clear story that’s compelling to your local paper. So take a few minutes to think about how your community is impacted by gerrymandering, and help us get the word out about the need for hearings.

Get writing tips and more info