Lower Saucon Township Council voted at its Jan. 16 meeting to support a resolution to redraw state and federal legislative districts within the township.
Council voted after listening to a presentation by Dr. Frederick “Fritz” Walker on behalf of Fair Districts PA. The group encourages municipalities to support its resolution for an independent citizens commission to lead the process of redistricting to avoid gerrymandering.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing voting district lines to reflect population changes and happens every 10 years following each U.S. census.
Gerrymandering is the process of manipulating legislative district boundaries so as to favor one party. Walker called it “as old as America, almost.”
With redistricting coming up after the 2020 census, new lines will be drawn for both congressional and state legislative districts. Congressional districts affect the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislative districts affect the Pennsylvania House and Senate.
The size and shape of districts is updated as populations change to ensure that each lawmaker continues to represent a fair portion of the population.
However, according to Fair Districts PA, few rules govern exactly how districts are drawn, allowing the majority party to manipulate district boundaries to promote their own interests.
Walker added that Pennsylvania was the third-worst state for gerrymandering in 2016.
In 2011, a PA Supreme Court decision found the state’s congressional district map violated the state constitution. As a result, new maps were drawn.
Fair Districts PA wants the state constitution to be amended to establish an independent citizens commission to lead the process of drawing fair districts. They anticipate that the 2021 map will be gerrymandered and hope the amendment will be voted on by the state house by that time.
More information on Fair Districts PA can be found at their website here.
In other business, council also amended and approved a new career development policy for the township police department. The policy was created based on the results of a Matrix study it participated in 2017.
According to Chief Tom Barndt, the new policy offers fair and transparent requirements for promotions within the department. It also aims to develop leadership skills among officers and enhance the entire police force.
Township Manager Leslie Huhn also discussed the idea of creating a survey on trick-or-treat dates for Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township.
The survey would be created with SurveyMonkey and would allow residents to vote on several choices for Trick-or-Treat dates and times, including Halloween night.
Traditionally, Lower Saucon Township votes to hold their Trick-or-Treat event at the same time as Hellertown borough’s.
Mayor David Heintzelman announced earlier this month that there will be a discussion about when to hold Trick-or-Treat on Hellertown Borough Council’s Monday, March 4 meeting agenda.