Ever wish you had a job where you didn't have to listen to the boss, where once hired you never have to worry about evaluations or about being replaced? If you have a job like that you must be either a state legislator or member of Congress.
Pennsylvania legislators so tightly control the boundaries of their districts that when voters show signs of being attracted to someone else, the politicians simply change the district lines to include a more hospitable electorate. Once ensconced, their hand-picked constituents robotically return them to office year after year, providing little incentive to ever compromise with opponents across the aisle.
Both Democrats and Republicans over the years have exerted ruthless power over drawing legislative and congressional district lines when their party was in the majority in the legislature.
Republicans currently control the legislature and get to draw both the legislative and congressional district lines. That helps explain why the GOP holds 13 House seats in Congress to the Democrats' five, even though the 4.2 million registered Democrats in the state outnumber the 3.3 million Republicans. The legislature is lopsided too. Republicans outnumber Democrats 122-80 in the House and 34-16 in the Senate.
History shows Democrats do the same thing to ensure their political survival when they are in charge in Harrisburg, which is why neither party should control drawing district boundaries.
Good government advocates have long complained that the convoluted system lets politicians defy what the founding fathers envisioned. Efforts to stop gerrymandering pop up every decade or so, with civic-minded groups lecturing the public on the virtues of having fair legislative districts drawn by independent parties. But they have mostly been ignored.
That may be changing, however. News accounts indicate thousands of people have turned out for meetings of Fair Districts PA, an umbrella for several civic organizations that want to fix the redistricting system.
People gasp when they learn Montgomery County could have its own member of Congress if its residents weren't divided among five districts. They're appalled to find out that Reading, with so many urban problems, is stashed inside a rural district that yields little representation for the small city's residents. Then there's the Seventh Congressional District, a national embarrassment that has been drawn to span five counties to keep Pat Meehan safely in office until the Republican is ready to retire to a rocking chair on his porch.