SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
The Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners is considering a vote on a proposal from Fair Districts PA that would address gerrymandering.
Fair Districts PA calls itself “a non-partisan coalition of organizations and individuals working to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania.”
“We’re asking the board to support an independent citizens commission,” Terry Schettini, a volunteer for Fair Districts PA, said to commissioners at the Aug. 8 Salisbury Township meeting.
Schettini was invited to speak at the Salisbury meeting because commissioners wanted more information about Fair Districts PA after representatives of the organization spoke at previous township meetings.
Fair Districts PA representatives are attending municipal meetings, requesting elected officials vote to endorse a statewide citizens commission to study legislative and congressional redistricting.
The Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and Philadelphia City Council adopted resolutions in June to back the citizens commission proposal.
The PSAB represents 956 boroughs of more than 2.6 million Pennsylvanians.
Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners’ President Robert Martucci Jr., asked Schettini about the makeup of the proposed citizens commission.
Schettini explained the citizens commission would have 11 members, including four members of each political party, representing Republican and Democrat voters and three members representing independent, unaffiliated or third party voters.
No public officials, their spouses, or lobbyists would serve on the commission, Schettini said.
The Pennsylvania legislature will play a role in determining the criteria for persons to be qualified to be on the commission, Schettini said.
Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners’ Vice President Debra Brinton asked about the role of independents on the commission. Brinton noted voters registered as independents cannot vote in primary elections in Pennsylvania.
“Fair Districts PA is focused solely on redistricting,” Schettini responded, saying the organization is not addressing the status of independent voters in primary elections.
“It’s not a new issue,” Schettini said concerning redistricting, claiming, “The League of Women Voters has been working on redistricting for about 30 years.”
One of the qualifications to serve on the commission is that the person being considered must have voted in the past two elections, Schettini said.
“In Pennsylvania, it’s extraordinarily partisan the way the voting districts are drawn,” Schettini claimed.
“Fair Districts PA is committed to a non-partisan method,” Schettini said.
Gerrymandering is defined as “the manipulation of an electoral constituency’s boundaries so as to favor one party or class.”
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision found the Pennsylvania 2011 congressional district map violated the state constitution. The court redrew the districts and issued a new map.
Redistricting is expected to happen again after the 2020 Census. The 2021 map is likely to be gerrymandered, regardless of which party is in power, according to Fair Districts PA.
At the end of its most recent 2019 term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that federal courts lack jurisdiction to decide political gerrymandering cases.
Salisbury Township Manager Cathy Bonaskiewich asked township commissioners if they would like a vote on a resolution concerning a citizens commission on redistricting to be placed on the agenda of the next township meeting.
By consensus, the commissioners agreed.
The Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners’ next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. Aug. 22, in the meeting room of the municipal building, 2900 S. Pike Ave.