Bucks Submission Part 1

Testimony Submitted by Frank Farry Part 1 Chairman and Commission Members, Below is the testimony that I am submitting on behalf of myself, Shelby Labs, Todd Polinchock, Meghan Schroeder, Craig Staats, Wendi Thomas and K.C. Tomlinson. We are all Bucks County residents from different parts of the county and as such thought it was important to provide you a perspective on the impacts of the draft LRC map on our home county. We appreciate your desire to try and understand the unique community interests in our vast commonwealth in the interest of developing the best possible map. We thought it important to take a moment to generally share a bit about our backgrounds so you will have a better understanding of the basis for this testimony. All seven of us are currently State Representatives having served between 1 -13 years. Some of us are lifelong Bucks Countians, while others have been here at least a few decades. Educationally, some of us went right into the workforce post high school, some served in the military, another went to a trade school with others completing Bachelor’s degrees and some completed post graduate work. One is a Naval Academy Grad and another a Wharton Grad. Professionally, our work prior to our honor to serve in state office is just as diverse. We have experience at the local, county, state and federal government levels, several business owners, several with professional licenses, many with corporate experience, a Nashville country music singer and a lawyer. Locally, we have served on boards of non-profits, on School Board and at the Municipal level and as a volunteer first responder and fire chief. Why does this matter you may ask? Because we felt it was important for you to understand who we are to better understand the testimony below and why our education, experience and service has helped lead us to understand the people we serve and help be the voice against the negative impacts and consequences that will, with no uncertainty in our minds, befall them if the LRC draft map is adopted. The Current Map and Demographics The current House map that was found to be constitutional during the previous redistricting process has seen very little population shifts. The 2020 Census has Bucks at 646k residents, which is near perfect to maintain the current ten House seats within the county border. When examining the population by House district, 9 of the 10 districts’ population remains within the target population deviation, with one slightly over. Simply put, a shifting of a couple voting precincts from the 142nd District to either the 140th or 141st would bring all ten districts within constitutional population requirements. We highlight this because the Commonwealth’s population shifts that have been cited as part of why there have been significant shifts in legislative districts clearly is not applicable to Bucks. This also shows that less than 1% of Bucks population would need to be moved to become constitutional and have elections remain competitive. The LRC Draft Map The LRC draft map significantly negatively alters Bucks’ representation. It displaces almost 1/3 of Bucks’ residents by unnecessarily shifting over 211k people to a different legislative district. It takes the ten Bucks legislative districts from 2 Democrat, 1 Republican and seven competitive and shifts them to 5 Democrat, 3 Republican and two competitive but lean Democrat. The partisan packing done by this map will destroy the national bellwether and purple nature of Bucks. It will drive Bucks into the current political polarization that plagues our nation and is being witnessed with greater frequency in Harrisburg. The LRC draft map takes the last two seats, the 143rd and 178th, that have bounced between the R and D representatives in the last three plus years and packs them with Republicans to the degree that the seats will no longer be competitive. Let that sink in for a moment. Two seats that have literally shuffled their representation between R and D based upon the will of the voting public will now be robbed of that opportunity. The Bucks County local newspapers are part of the USA Today Network. On January 13th they printed an editorial from their editorial board. The editorial speaks for itself but a few points we would like to highlight: How the 29th District has 75% new population. This is in a county that truly only needs less than a few thousand people shifted. It should also be noted that several other districts currently held by Republican members have significant population shifts as well. The drawing of the 178th that makes it uncompetitive for Democrats and how the current Republican Representative actually opposes making her district so much favorable for her and her party. “We love Bucks County’s diversity of thought and its abundance of opinions from every point along the political spectrum. Bucks County deserves to send its best to Harrisburg, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, and its voters deserve the chance to have a real say in choosing them.” Both directly us and through our offices we have had residents flood us with calls after the printing of the Editorial trying to understand the process and more importantly inquire if the draft map going to be the end result. Several others reached out because they had trouble commenting or uploading their comments after reading the Editorial. Some were unable to cut and paste their remarks. One called just today to say he had to retype his whole several page statement because he was unable to upload a word document into the system. Others are upset about it but just did not care to put the time in to comment with some labeling the process as another failing of government. We assure you that no matter the volume of comments you receive, there is a silent majority that does not support the result of your drafting process. It should also be noted that several local governments were so concerned with the proposal that they took the official act of passing a municipal resolution in opposition to the redistricting as proposed in the draft map. To the best of our knowledge these were passed unanimously and bipartisan. Other organizations such as authorities also wrote about their opposition to the draft map. Many local officials also wrote comments directly. We did hear from some who sought to testify at the hearings but were denied due to space being full. Likewise, we made a request last week after the Editorial, and the fervor that it created, to testify at a hearing, but we were denied due to the process already being full with other aggrieved parties. Competitiveness Matters While not a constitutional consideration, we would be blind to discount the importance of keeping seats competitive. It is truly part of our founding principles that the people choose who represents them in government. If seats are not competitive the people lose this choice and ultimately their voice. Additionally, if it was not desired to be a consideration, why would so many interested parties cite its importance. Mr. Thornburgh from the Committee of Seventy recognized that the map as drawn is less competitive than the current map and suggest competitiveness be one of the fixes. As I am sure you are well aware, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the map an “F” on competitiveness. Their map of Bucks County as drawn shows the 5 D seats, 3 R seats and two toss-ups but lean D. Fair Districts PA prominently talks about the impacts of gerrymandering and ultimately uncompetitive district on their website. They recognize that in those districts your vote counts less, you have less choices at the ballot box and increased polarization hurting functional democracy. They and their members have conveyed that to many of us numerous times over the last several years as they have advocated to end the exact process we seem to be facing. We agree whole heartedly, including some of us who are opposed to the draft map at the expense of an easier election victory for themselves in the future. This is also what the public desires as well. This map will literally trap eighty percent of Bucks’ residents in district where there will be strong majority party-controlled elections that will be decided in primaries not general elections. Whole registrations of voters, including independent and third-party registrants will not have a say in determining the winner of an election and ultimately, their representation in Harrisburg. In a county where there are 203k registered Democrats and 193k registered Republicans it is astounding that the draft map moves from 2 D seats, 1 R seat and 7 competitive seats to 2 competitive seats, both of which now have a lean to the party that already has half the county drawn for them. Additionally, with only a registration advantage of 10k out of almost 400k R and D party voters the fact that the map ends up 5 D, 3 R and two lean D is questionable. It did not pass the media’s smell test in terms of not being gerrymandered, and it is not passing the public’s smell test either.