On Tuesday vote “DODO WECHT”, and Your Guide to Gerrymandering

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 7.48.04 PMTuesday is Election Day, and the bone-chillingly urgent contest is for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

You are going to want to vote for Kevin Dougherty, Christine Donahue and David Wecht. You can remember that by remembering the mnemonic device, “DODO WECHT“.

One reason this is so crucial is not only because those are the 3 Democrats in the hunt (crowd cheers!) but because of gerrymandering: the cutthroat process by which states determine how their congressional and legislative district boundaries will be drawn.

Here are the stakes:

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 8.19.22 PM

In Pennsylvania, Congressional districts are drawn as any ordinary law might be passed, and Legislative districts are drawn by a “commission” comprised mostly of legislative leaders (like the ICA!). But in both cases it often all comes down to the state Supreme Court.

The PA Supreme Court is a train wreck at the moment, with 3 vacancies and the balance of power up-for-grabs.

Pennsylvania is one of six states — with Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia and Illinois — where voters elect local and statewide judges. (Trib, Brad Bumstead)

Such fine company!

Aside from the many problems related to judges being forced to run for office like partisan political doofuses, Pennsylvania is one of the most absurdly gerrymandered states

… and thanks to the 2010 Republican landslide (crowd boos), it is gerrymandered towards a decided GOP advantage.

But wait, there’s more. While the minority party gets the shaft whenever there is one to give, once that’s off the table gerrymandering benefits incumbents generally — and the most senior, entrenched incumbents especially.

Since gerrymandered districts are drawn with the maximum proportions of Democrats or Republicans within them, the politicians representing these twisted districts have little incentive to moderate their positions, show any nuance or be meaningfully independent. That is one reason we wind up with whackadoos contributing to pointless, dangerous and endless standoffs at both the national and state levels.

So to be frank, the poster above-right is not entirely accurate. Voting for Dougherty, Donahue and Wecht will not “stop” gerrymandering. It will however reverse bad Republican gerrymandering and possibly even start some healthy Democratic gerrymandering.

Want to do even better? Me too.

It’s hard to get a reform movement going, because not only do almost all incumbent officeholders benefit from the status quo, but everyone who works for them either in government or on campaigns appreciates stability in their lives. And it doesn’t intrinsically benefit business, labor or any special interest. That’s a lot of people who know what they’re doing. But maybe after enough ridiculous government crises or a full-blown catastrophe, common-sense reform will gain some momentum.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Arizona independent citizens’ commission, so we know it can be done.

There is a bill in Congress seeking to make that type of independent commission mandatory for federal map-making.

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Ted Harhai (D-Westmorland County!), introduced a similar bill just this summer. Why is this guy not a celebrity? Go on, be one of Harhai’s Heroes!

EndGerrymandering.com is a website full of resources.

If you have the wherewithal and standing to sue the bastards, you might be able to convince a court to overrule a badly gerrymandered map with reference to a metric called the “efficiency gap”. Worth a shot.

Computer algorithms might be part of the solution. Or, if you’re from Pittsburgh and want to sex it up, “robots”.

In the meanwhile if you can’t beat them, join them! Better Democrats should mander our gerry, than wind up gerrymandeed upon all over again.

So remember, DODO WECHT:  Dougherty, Donahue and Wecht. And whatever you do, be you Republican, Independent or Libertarian, don’t vote for Mike George.

18 thoughts on “On Tuesday vote “DODO WECHT”, and Your Guide to Gerrymandering

  1. Anon

    I agree with you on the general sentiment expressed in the gerrymandering segment. You are missing though one key fact that many statewide democrats miss (especially from Philly and Pgh). And that fact is that even though someone is a registered D in PA, that doesn’t mean they vote for democrats. It is not as easy as just saying “there are more blue people here, therefore blue wins (in either elections or hearts and minds).” PA has a large number of blue voters who vote R in statewide and national elections. Many outlying counties have democrats at the helm in the county, but if you look at voting they turn out majorities for republican statewide and national elections. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is just that people never changed their registration, but are really now R’s. Maybe they registered at 18 in an old line union family as a D, but over the years have become more conservative. The other reason is just simply that some people like democrats in control at a local level, but not at the state or national level. This causes lots of interesting things to happen in elections – the famous (or infamous) late night vote coming from the T.

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