Our elites don’t like us choosing our own judges or the people who draw congressional and legislative districts, so they want to replace us shoeless rubes clinging to our sky God, boom sticks and racism with an “independent,” “bipartisan” “citizens” commission.
Currently, judges are vetted and elected by political parties after primaries in large part based upon how close the candidate’s views are to the party activists. The winners of the primaries are then vetted by public interest groups like the National Rifle Association and the League of Women Voters. Then the voting citizens of our state decide which judge’s outlook is closest to that of the people they will judge. A victorious judge sits for 10 years before the next election, long enough to insulate them from temporary public passion, but short enough that if the judge begins to rule in an ideologically extreme fashion, citizens will remember, mobilize and remove the judge from office.
While Rimersburg Rules is of the opinion our leaders just don’t like us having power, their official complaints are: Few voters know anything about the candidates, the turnout for these elections are low, and much of the financing for judicial candidates comes from special interests.
While fewer voters may know judicial candidates’ positions compared to other races, politically active voters do, as do the party and interest group operatives. They spread the word to base voters. This group is much larger in number and more representative than a small, select commission of political insiders appointed by political insiders, probably the Legislature and the governor. Does anyone doubt the political donors to the governor and legislators will have strong opinions about who is to be appointed and a willingness to express them, vigorously? If we adopt an appointive system, judicial appointments will become a major campaign issue and money will surge into gubernatorial and legislative races for just that reason.
An independent, bipartisan citizens commission — sure, like they’ll call up you or your buddy and offer you a slot.
The pretext for taking over redistricting is “gerrymandering.” Currently, every 10 years a small group of Pennsylvania party leaders redraw the state House and Senate districts. The U.S. congressional boundaries are re-drawn and voted on by the Legislature, then sent to the governor. Naturally the majority party, elected by the citizens of this commonwealth, “gerrymanders,” meaning draws the boundaries to give their party the best chance of winning.
The official complaint is “gerrymandering” is political and bad, but Rimersburg Rules suspects the real complaint is our betters don’t like the fact that we get to elect or vote out of office the people who draw the districts now. That’s why they want to create a — you guessed it — an independent, bipartisan citizens commission.
Besides sharing the judicial commission weaknesses, there’s one more. Redistricting is an inherently political act, and since proportional representation is required, there’s no way not to gerrymander. Proportional representation means each district of one legislator or congressman must contain close to the same number of people as every other district. (If one district with fewer voters still got one congressman, that would give that district’s voters more electoral power than the others.) That means each voter has the same electoral power as everyone else.
It also means there’s no way to draw a straight line redistricting map. You have to choose or reject communities of a certain size so you keep the number of voters in each district the same. That means sometimes a community right next to another will get cut out and put in another district. There’s no fair or non-political way to do it. The only question is: who does the drawing, elected officials or big city political insiders?
Either change requires amending the state constitution by passing the bill in two consecutive sessions and then putting it up for a voter referendum.
Who do you trust? Us or them?
[This is a column of opinion and satire. The author knows of no undisclosed facts. To comment or learn more, contact Lewis at josephmaxlewis.com. Lewis the author of “Separation of Church and State” and “The Diaries of Pontius Pilate.”]