Election Law

JSPAN Testifies to PA House Members on Redistricting

Ken Myers provided the following testimony on behalf of JSPAN to the Pennsylvania House Government Affairs Committee at a hearing on March 13. The Committee, chaired by Representative Babette Josephs, took up H.B. 81 (Rep. Leach), H.B. 84 (Rep. Tangretti), and H.B. 2047 (Rep. Curry), all proposing amendments to the Pennsylvania State Constitution designed to change our method of setting Congressional and state legislative districts. Recounting JSPAN’s interest in the problems of redistricting in prior years, Myers urged two primary thoughts on the legislators: first, that the members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate hurt themselves through gerrymandered districts. And second, that the public does care about the redistricting process and its effect on the right to vote in general elections.

Redistricting Program Attracts Large Audience

The redistricting lecture by Prof. Bruce Cain and Representative Daylin Leach drew an enthusiastic audience that packed a large meeting room at the Villanova Conference Center on August 22. The talks examined the gerrymander issue – when the process of drawing voting district lines is used as a tool to eliminate voter choice, and to substitute “safe” seats owned by one or the other political party. Representative Leach, a state legislator from Montgomery County, explained some of the process by which our present voting district lines were set in 2001. Townships were divided in as many as six parts in order to favor one or the other incumbent. Voters were “cracked” – moved away from a district to help the incumbent win reelection – or “packed “ – moved into a district in order to give an incumbent a safe majority. Leach brought with him maps showing the strange outlines of various Southeast Pennsylvania districts, and explained how they came to pass in the partisan redistricting process.

Update on Paper Ballots in

Last spring, JSPAN reported on the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, H.R. 811, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ). The bill would ban paperless voting and require paper trails, so that if a very close election took place or if there was a question about how the election results were arrived at, all votes could be verified by the voters themselves, using the permanent paper record. It was expected that the bill would have enough support to be passed this year if voting reform was placed on the Congressional agenda. But nothing in Washington is obvious!

We Were Gerrymandered... Do We Care?

This article was written by JSPAN Vice President Kenneth Myers. Gerrymandering is on our minds. The election this week allayed some of our worst fears, showing that an extremely unpopular ruling party can lose their majority in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives when there is a major revolt at the polls. But should we really be comforted? Let’s look at some results from Pennsylvania, where we have been gerrymandered pretty effectively. There were 19 races in which a Republican and a Democrat ran for the Pennsylvania State Senate on Tuesday (in six other races – five in Democratic districts, one in a Republican district - only one of the major parties ran a candidate). In total for all 19 races, Democrats polled 758,118 votes, and Republicans polled 742,363 votes. With just over half of the vote, you would expect Democrats to take 10 out of the 19 contested seats. With just under half of the vote, you would expect Republicans to take the other 9 seats. But what actually happened? Democrats took just 5 seats, Republicans 14. Those who cast 50.5% of the votes took home 26% of the prize. Those who cast 49.5% of the votes walked off with 74% of the Senate seats. Despite a big victory for Democrats in most other contests in Tuesday’s election, the Pennsylvania Senate was unchanged: the Republicans went in with 14 of the contested seats and came out with the same 14 seats.

Supreme Court Drops the Ball on Gerrymandering

In March we held a program, entitled "Can the Majority Take All?" on the danger political gerrymandering poses to our democratic process and electoral rights. The Texas redistricting case, in which former House Majority Leader Tom Delay orchestrated a mid-decade redistricting plan solely for partisan gain, saw the ouster of four incumbent Democratic legislators and disenfranchised the voting rights of Texas's Latino population. While the Court ordered the infamous District 23 to be redrawn, the justices found in favor of the overall Texas congressional map. Sam Hirsch, a lawyer involved in both the Texas cases (League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry) and the Pennsylvania redistricting ordeal (Vieth v. Jubelirer), had made the point at "Can The Majority Take All" that congressional districts should be drawn to maximize competition and should engender community activism. The Texas map does neither.

JSPAN Presents: "Can the Majority Take All"

On Tuesday, March 7th, at The Philadelphian, 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, at 7:00 P.M., JSPAN will be hosting "Can the Majority Take All?", which will focus on the threat of political gerrymandering to our democratic system. We will talk about the now-infamous Texas redistricting plan devised by Tom Delay to enable his party to gain more Congressional seats.

JSPAN Event - Election Debate

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network hosted a debate on June 8th

The 2004 Election and the Jewish Agenda: Foreign and Domestic

JSPAN Event - Election Debate

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network hosted a debate on June 8th

The 2004 Election and the Jewish Agenda: Foreign and Domestic

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