New poll: Pa. voters are a hard ‘no’ on gerrymandering | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Nearly nine in 10 respondents oppose gerrymandering and seven in 10 say they’d have a serious problem if they’re stuck with gerrymandered districts.

August 24, 2021 7:23 am

(Capital-Star file)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

With Census data finally in hand, it’s Redistricting Day in Pennsylvania.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission meets at 10:30 a.m. in Room 8E-B of the Capitol’s East Wing, where the panel is expected to take up, among other matters, the thorny question of prison gerrymandering.

The House State Government Committee, meanwhile, kicks off a series of public hearings at 9 a.m. at Grove City College in scenic Grove City, Pa., as it gets the ball rolling on the decennial remapping of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts. The panel is chaired, by the way, by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, which means all your Grove-y needs will be taken care of in a single event.

Just in time for this flurry of activity, the bipartisan advocacy group RepresentUS is out with some new polling data showing that Pennsylvanians have some pretty definite feelings about this admittedly partisan process and how it should go down.

For instance, nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) respondents to the poll said they opposed drawing districts in such a way to help one political party or to help certain politicians win an election.

That tally includes 92 percent of Democrats, 92 percent of independents, and 83 percent of Republican respondents, the poll indicated. The bipartisan opposition extended to self-identified Donald Trump voters (85 percent opposed) and self-identified Joe Biden voters (95 percent), the poll indicated.

And putting aside their own partisan inclinations, 88 percent of respondents also said that congressional and legislative districts should be drawn in a fair way that does not benefit their preferred political party.

All told, 71 percent of respondents said it would be a major problem if they got stuck with gerrymandered districts, including 78 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 60 percent of Republicans.

RepresentUs sampled the opinions of 422 Pennsylvanians in a national survey administered by YouGuv. Conducted from June 30 to July 8, the poll has a margin of error of 5.25 percent.

Rep. Seth Grove questions Wolf administration officials during a Feb. 13, 2019 budget hearing in the Capitol. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

In news that may cheer lawmakers as they start a long day of public hearings, more than eight in ten respondents (83 percent) support requiring that voting districts be drawn in public and “in a fully transparent manner,” pollsters said. Lawmakers have vowed to do just that.

But just like the scorpion that stung the crocodile, a clear majority of respondents (56 percent) still expect to end up with gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts at the end of the process, the poll indicated.

Once again, that cynicism was largely bipartisan. Forty-eight percent of Republicans, 55 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independent respondents shared that expectation, the poll indicated.

Finally, a majority of respondents (53 percent) said they didn’t trust lawmakers to draw new legislative and congressional boundaries, while just 20 percent did trust them, the poll indicated.

That lack of trust was shared by self-identified conservative voters (44 percent distrust, 26 percent trust); self-identified moderate voters (53 percent distrust, 18 percent trust), and self-identified liberal voters (65 percent distrust, 11 percent trust).

And, overall, 71 percent of respondents said they supported banning pols from even participating in the process, the poll indicated.

(Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek)

As a refresher, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which is comprised of the four floor leaders in the state House and Senate, is in charge of redrawing Pennsylvania’s 203 House and 50 Senate seats. A fifth member, acting as chairman, is there to break ties and otherwise keep things functioning smoothly.

This time out, former University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who’s actually hired his own mapmaker, is serving as the panel’s chairman.

The General Assembly, meanwhile, is in charge of the congressional remap, which is passed in the form of legislation. Gov. Tom Wolf can sign or veto the map. Pennsylvania is expected to lose a seat on Capitol Hill, dropping from the current 18 districts to 17 districts during the new round of remapping.

And if past is prologue, and it almost always is, someone (or, more likely, several someones) will file suit challenging the maps.

You can read the full polling memo below:

Then-state Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, holds up a compendium of climate research compiled by the Heartland Institute during a hearing on climate change. Dush announced he will retire come 2020 this November. (Photo from Dush’s state Facebook page)

Our Stuff.
State Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who’s now tasked with leading an investigation into the state’s elections says he’s taking the newfound responsibility “very seriously,” Marley Parish reports.

Dush, the chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, replaces state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, who now finds himself on serious outs with Senate GOP leadership after slamming Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, during an interview with right-wing cable last week.

On Friday, in apparent retaliation, Corman reassigned Mastriano’s Harrisburg office staff. And on Monday, during a hastily convened Senate session, Mastriano was removed as chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which had been charged with running the probe. He’ll remain a member of that committee, which has been effectively rendered meaningless.

With classes about to resume, state health and education officials were in suburban Pittsburgh on Monday, where they reiterated the need for schools and individuals to follow federal guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cassie Miller has the details.

Democratic lawmakers are pushing federal agencies to provide support for survivors of and communities affected by American Indian boarding school policies, the decades-long practice of forcibly sending Native American children to faraway boarding schools that rejected their tribal cultures, Correspondent Allison Winter reports.

Our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune continue an excellent run of reporting on the gun violence that’s plagued Pennsylvania’s largest city this year. In a new story, the Trib talks to self-styled ‘interrupters,’ who look to prevent the violence before it happens.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a Philadelphia mom whose son is incarcerated makes the case against prison gerrymandering. And state Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia, would really like it if members of the state’s Capitol Hill delegation put the ‘bipartisan’ in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and voted in favor of it.

The Inquirer introduces you to Ryan Boyerbilled as the most powerful person in Philly politics that you’ve never heard of.

In Allegheny County, members of the Bethel Park school board are being called ‘Nazis’ for deciding to require a mask mandate, the Post-Gazette reports.

In Dauphin County, officials in the Susquehanna Township schools have tied their mask mandate to case countsPennLive reports (paywall).

In the Lehigh Valley, the Allentown Diocese is mandating masks in its schools, the Morning Call reports.

Officials in the Scranton Diocese will let local case counts guide their mask mandate, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

LancasteOnline runs down which Lebanon County schools will require masks this fall (paywall).

GoErie runs down mask mandates at local public and private schools.

In Lancaster County, free lead paint removal is being made available to some residents, WITF-FM reports.

In Philadelphia, officials at the Kimmel Center have rolled out a vaccine mandate ahead of their September reopening, WHYY-FM reports.

Officials in York County have approved a plan to spend more than $40 million of the $87 million in aid they’ve received through the American Rescue Plan, the York Dispatch reports.

In Washington County, friends and colleagues paid tribute to District Attorney Gene Vittone, who died Saturday, aged 61, after a battle with lung cancer. The Observer-Reporter has the story.

Roll Call explains why Afghanistan will — and won’t — matter in the 2022 midterms.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
Like we said up top, it’s Redistricting Day in Pennsylvania.
9 a.m., Grove City College, Grove City Pa.: House State Government Committee
10 a.m., Pittsburgh: House Democratic Policy Committee
10 a.m., Online: Center for Rural Pennsylvania
10 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate State Government Committee
10:30 a.m., 8E-B East Wing: Legislative Reapportionment Commission

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to regular reader Christoper Ellis, of Reading, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day, sir. Belated best wishes go out to Shira Goodman, of the Philadelphia ADL, who celebrated on Monday.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s a summer favorite from Japanese Breakfast to get your Tuesday morning rolling. It’s ‘Be Sweet.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
League Two team Barrow host Aston Villa Tuesday in the second round of the Carabao Cup. It’ll mark the first time in the club’s history that they’ve played a Premier League opponent at home. A win thus would be a serious, serious upset. The Guardian has the details.

And you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.