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Redistricting - Gerrymandering in Delaware County

The League believes that voters are entitled to a meaningful choice of candidates when they go to the polls. But much too often incumbent office holders seeking reelection face only token or no competition. Lack of competitive elections discourages voter participation and can result in unaccountable government. Redistricting is one of the method incumbent legislators use to protect their positions of power. Members of the U.S. Congress, the Pennsylvania Legislature and some Township Commissions are elected from defined districts. Every 10 years, after the federal decennial census, the boundaries of these districts must be redrawn to reflect changes in population that have taken place. Congressional and General Assembly districts are redrawn by the State Legislature. Township districts are redrawn by the township commissions. Giving legislators have the exclusive power to determine district lines can lead to gerrymandering or the process by which district lines are drawn to protect the interests of incumbent legislators or the party in power at the time redistricting takes place. This process has been described as one in which legislators pick their voters rather that the other way around.

There are three blatant examples of gerrymandering in the shape of state House and Senate districts in Delaware County. The 161st House District winds all the way from Aston near the southern end of Delaware County to Radnor on the northern end of Delaware County. It includes parts of 8 townships and incorporates only Brookhaven, Rutledge and Swarthmore in their entirely. The 165th District meanders from Morton in the south to Radnor. In the process these two districts plus HD166 split Marple into three separate districts. Radnor is also split into three separate districts. Districts 159, 161,162 and 163 all claim portions of Ridley Township. The 26th Senatorial District forms a crescent extending from the older and densely populated community of Tinicum on the Delaware River to the more rural townships of Thornbury, Edgemont, and Newtown on the border with Chester County and includes two townships in Chester County. The 7th Congressional District which includes most of Delaware County and parts of Chester County would be relatively compact were it no for a strange protuberance that extends into Montgomery County. Maps of congressional and legislative districts in Delaware County can be viewed at http://www.dos.state.pa.us/elections/cwp/view.asp?a=1311&q=446981&electionsNav=|.

The League is working for legislation to reform the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn in Pennsylvania. In order to do this, the state legislature must propose a change in the Pennsylvania Constitution and the voters must ratify the proposed change. We are working to make this happen before the next round of redistricting which will begin in 2011.




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