Redistricting: Why Are Districts So Crazy?

See a short video by Amanda Holt, whose sensible citizen-oriented redistricting plan for the state after the 2010 census helped save West Chester from dismemberment between 2 PA House districts, at

For more background and a proposed redistricting reform, see also FairDistrictsPA.


President Obama delivers final State of the Union

“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

That was President Obama speaking to Congress about the urgent need for climate action during his final State of the Union address.

VIDEO: Watch the State of the Union Video here
READ: The Full Text of the State of the Union here

Notes on the 4/21/12 redistricting forum in West Chester

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 6/7/12

As the state’s redistricting snafus are about to get back in the headlines (the Legislative Reapportionment Commission will meet again on June 8 to address its own proposal #2), I wanted to look back to the very informative forum on that subject held this spring in West Chester Borough Hall.

You may have read the account “Panel reviews Pennsylvania redistricting” by Jim Callahan, Daily Local News, 4/23/12.

Since blogs have fewer space constraints than daily newspapers, I’m going to mention some further highlights that I thought ought to be preserved for posterity.

Here for the record is the outline distributed at the forum:

“The Great Pennsylvania Redistricting Reversal of 2012: How it happened, how it affirmed citizens’ rights, and how it changed this year’s elections”

April 21 2012, West Chester Borough Hall

Carolyn Comitta , Mayor of West Chester, appellant (with Borough Council President Holly Brown) for the Borough on state plan #1

Amanda Holt (, author of redistricting maps praised by the PA Supreme Court

Sam Stretton, attorney for the West Chester and Phoenixville appeals to the Legislative Redistricting Commission

Tim Potts, co-founder and political analyst, Democracy Rising Pennsylvania (


Why does redistricting matter?

What happened?

What can be done?

read more at Politics: A View from West Chester

WCU student Daniel Colon to Reapportionment Commission

May 3, 2012

Legislative Reapportionment Commission Hearing
Testimony by Daniel Love Colon

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to today. I am Daniel Love Colon and as a West Chester University undergraduate, I offer you a student prospective.

The University is located in contiguous areas of three municipalities. The North campus residence halls are in West Chester Borough, where also thousands of students live off-campus. The South Campus Apartments and Village lie in East Bradford Township. The academic buildings of East Campus and West Chester Commons are in West Goshen Township.

West Chester University and the Borough have created a unique partnership that has allowed them to grow in tandem. Whichever municipality they live in, students participate in many community service events, festivals, and other activities throughout the Borough. On the other hand, they vote in East Bradford and West Goshen as well. Students want to know to whom, at the state level, they can turn for support to understand the matters that directly affect Higher Education and their lives.

The districts in which we are voting this year put all areas of West Chester University together in the 156th House district.

The plan rejected by the PA Supreme court split the University between the 156th (West Goshen) and the 160th (the southern parts of both the Borough and of East Bradford).

The current proposal splits the University between the 156th (West Chester) and the 158th (East Bradford, southern part of West Goshen).

In terms of the integrity of the University and students’ legitimate desire to have their legislative representation centered near their campus, the new proposal is neither better nor worse than the rejected plan, and the 2001 plan is distinctly superior.

Splitting the student voice will ultimately affect students’ engagement with their community, municipalities, and university as well as candidates’ ability to represent and reach out to the significant entity that is West Chester University.

Thank you for your attention, and I would urge you to consider a principle that a university, just like any other community, should not be split unless absolutely necessary.

Mayor Comitta to PA Reapportionment Commission

May 3, 2012

State Reapportionment Commission Hearing
Testimony by Mayor Carolyn Comitta
Borough of West Chester

Good afternoon, honorable members of the Reapportionment Commission. I am Mayor Carolyn Comitta. Once again, I bring you greetings from the citizens of the great Borough of West Chester!

On behalf of the people of West Chester, I would like to thank you for listening to our appeals and for redrawing a legislative map that keeps the Borough of West Chester wholly within one state House District.

When I testified before you on November 23rd, I felt like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, trying to undo the wrong that was destined for my town. I went into politics, not for myself, but to do the right thing for the people of West Chester. Thank you for making a decision that was right for West Chester and not politically expedient.

Keeping the Chester County seat in one district is the right thing to do for the people of West Chester, and for our neighbors. If the Borough could function as an “island” in the region, then my testimony would end with my sincere thank you to the Commission.

However, no man is an island, and no municipality functions or flourishes on its own, either. The Borough serves as the regional urban center for social, legal and financial services, culture, higher education and healthcare. Our future is inextricably intertwined with the health of our municipal neighbors. Therefore, I offer, several functional and Constitutional concerns about the lack of contiguousness and compactness of the 156th. Our attorney, Sam Stretton, is unable to be here today, so I will present these objections to the revised preliminary plan on his behalf.

In addition, I am pleased to have Daniel Colon, a West Chester University student, with me today, who will testify on the revised preliminary map and the detrimental impact of splitting the University among three districts.

As an alumna of WC State College, and Mayor to those students who live in the Borough – that is, close to half of the students who are enrolled there – I am very concerned about the effects of significantly diluting the voices of theses students and scattering them across three legislative districts and fully support the comments of Daniel Colon.

We believe it is “absolutely necessary” to keep the Borough together — and to keep its State University together — under one House District in order for us to have the best chance of not just surviving but flourishing into the 21st century.

Our future remains in your hands. The people of West Chester thank you once again, for your thoughtful consideration. Thank you.

Revised PA district maps still have ‘excessive divisions’

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent, 5/3/12

Commission hears criticism from both sides of the aisle

HARRISBURG — Redistricting crusader Amanda Holt told Pennsylvania’s reapportionment commission Wednesday to stop trying to redefine the English language.

When the state constitution says counties and municipalities should be split “when absolutely necessary,” it means exactly that, she said.

The revised plan for new state House and Senate districts that was opened for public comment Wednesday contains “excessive divisions on a massive scale” even after the state Supreme Court ordered the commission to redraw the maps with fewer splits, Holt said.

The revised proposals contain about 50 percent fewer divisions, but Holt’s analysis showed 32 unnecessary divisions in the state Senate plan and 205 on the new House map….

read more at PA Independent

Pa. redistricting maps still don’t follow Constitution

Harrisburg Patriot-News Editorial Board, 5/3/12

The latest Pennsylvania House and Senate redistricting plans merit a C, which is certainly an improvement over the F they received before. It’s also far from the A grade maps that Pennsylvanians deserve.

The state Constitution gives clear instructions on how redistricting should be done: “Unless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district.”

The key words are “unless absolutely necessary.” The state Supreme Court struck down the earlier maps because they cut up the state like Edward Scissorhands or Picasso might. Even the court felt the need to point out that districts that look like a “crooked finger,” “wishbone” and “iron cross” are clearly not necessary.

[click here for maps]: 2012 proposed maps

The revised maps tame the extremes, but they still include far more slices and crooked lines than necessary.

“I can only conclude the revised plan … needlessly sacrifices the Constitution on the altar of incumbent protection,” said Amanda Holt on Wednesday. Holt is the piano teacher from Allentown who was the driving force behind the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the prior proposals. …

read more at Harrisburg Patriot-News

Redistricting West Chester

As a result of the population growth in ward 5 (due to WCU dorms being demolished and replaced) and precinct 2W (the western part of ward 2), those two areas need to give up residents to wards 3 and 1, respectively, according to a plan approved by PZBID today.

Download the relevant memo and map of proposed changes here: Redistricting 5-2-12.

The proposal goes to Borough Council next week for discussion but would not be adopted until at least the June or July Council meeting (after, of course, public comment and any changes).

The proposed redistricting notably makes ward 5 about 4/5 students, at least until the next census in 2020 and redistricting to take effect in 2012.

Note that the census (and therefore redistricting) is based on residents (or, in the case of dorms, beds), not on regisered voters.