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Senator leads teach-in on gerrymandering

ALI WATKINS TTN As legislators argued about gerrymandering, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) led a dissent in America teach-in on the subject. Students and faculty discussed redistricting with Leach.
Leach addressed the redistricting currently taking place in the state legislature.

ALI WATKINS TTN As legislators argued about gerrymandering, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) led a dissent in America teach-in on the subject. Students and faculty discussed redistricting with Leach.

Leach addressed the redistricting currently taking place in the state legislature.

Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) paid a visit to Temple Friday, Feb. 3, to speak at professor Ralph Young’s latest teach-in. The program, held in Anderson Hall 821, focused on the gerrymandering controversy currently unfolding within Pennsylvania’s state legislature.

Students in attendance received an informational packet at the start of the program, which explained why gerrymandering is suddenly an issue in Pennsylvania politics.

Gerrymandering, Leach explained, is an unfortunate byproduct of the redistricting process, which involves re-drawing the boundaries of electoral districts within the state.

“We [redistrict] every 10 years to reflect population shifts and to make sure districts have the same number of people,” Leach said. “‘One person equals one vote’ is the magical phrase.”

The state legislature had to once again begin the redistricting process in 2011. Leach detailed the situation for students, explaining that the effort was meant to be cooperative between both democrats and republicans in an effort to make district divisions as fair as possible.

This cooperation, he said, was not experienced. The lines that were submitted for review were not a collaborative effort and strongly favored republican-heavy districts. This reapportionment map was subsequently voided by the State Supreme Court, who issued their official opinion as the teach-in was taking place.

“This is particularly fortuitous timing,” Leach said. “Literally, 15 minutes ago there was breaking news.”

The gerrymandering charges and redistricting procedure have hit a stalemate, and next actions are still being decided. But time is of the essence, the senator said, especially in light of the fast-approaching republican primary. As of now, 2001 district lines still stand.

Leach further told students that the gerrymandering could rattle political procedure, not just within the state legislature, but all the way to the Oval Office.

“Electoral votes would be divided by the congressional districts they’re drawing. And, well, they look like that,” Leach said, referring to a picture of the redrawn lines for the state’s 7th congressional district.

In a must-win state like Pennsylvania, he said, this could have enormous repercussions in November.

Alana Shaw, a junior political science major, appreciated the opportunity to hear from someone familiar with the redistricting process.

“You hear different propaganda for and against gerrymandering. You don’t usually hear it straight from a politician,” Shaw said. “It’s hard for people to realize [the effects of gerrymandering]. They think, ‘Hey, it’s America – one voice, one vote,’ and all that. But that’s not true right now.”

Dave Immendorfer, a sophomore anthropology major, echoed Shaw’s appreciation.

“It was good to actually hear about the whole process from someone who is intimately involved in it. It makes me more aware of the politics of what’s happening,” Immendorfer said.

Both Immendorfer and Shaw saw potential repercussions in voter turnout due to the controversy.

“One of the reasons why many peoples’ votes don’t count is because of the way the district is laid out,” Immendorfer said. “If people knew about this reality and were able to influence the way districts are laid out, our votes would count so much more.”

Leach urged students to look beyond the legislative system and see the gerrymandering controversy for what it is – a polarized political problem, and not a reflection of the democratic system as a whole.

“People don’t like that, sometimes, they don’t win. There is nothing about this that has to do with good government,” Leach said. “This is all ‘Yay Team.’”

Ali Watkins can be reached at allison.watkins@temple.edu.

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