This letter was submitted to LebTown. Read LebTown’s submission policy here.

While at first it was encouraging to read that Chris Gebhard, Republican candidate for the 48th Senate District seat, endorses the democratic maxim that “nobody should feel their vote doesn’t count or the system is unfair,” it soon turned disheartening to learn that his prescription for ensuring this is to repeal Act 77, the bill that established no-excuse mail-in voting. Thirty-eight percent of all votes cast in the 2020 general election were cast securely by mail, which alone attests to the success of the Act.

But Mr. Gebhard cites the administrative guidance and judicial remedies necessarily enacted to try to bring clarity to an imprecise, inchoate Act 77, as originally passed, as reasons to void it. Remedies enacted, ironically, because Republican legislators failed to act in good faith, pre-election, to do so.

Sadly, the implication in Mr. Gebhard’s position parrots the Republican Party’s unfounded and thoroughly discredited claim of election fraud.

But if Mr. Gebhard really wants to ensure the integrity and fairness of every vote, we can get there in a way other than to repeal Act 77 on the basis of the Big Lie. He could support redistricting reform bills to end the demonstrably, irrefutably REAL corrupt practice of gerrymandering.

Senate Bill 222 (House Bill 22) outlines map-drawing criteria that will prevent the excessive subdividing of counties and municipalities that results in the partisan “packing” and “cracking” of districts that so dilute and circumscribe the electoral weight and political power of the affected voters; it conforms district boundaries to natural boundaries, like rivers and mountains (more on this below); it keeps communities with shared economic, social, cultural or other interests intact, and it mirrors the federal Voting Rights Act requirements for racial and language minorities.

And to create districts that can truly reflect the will of the voters, Senate Bill 222 brings integrity and transparency to the line-drawing process thru its requirements for a public website for dissemination of all redistricting data and maps (including citizen map submissions); for multiple statewide public hearings on proposed maps and for live-streamed legislative committee meetings; and for a final written report documenting decisions, rationale, and responsiveness to public comment.

Mr. Gebhard only need look at Senate District 48’s bizarre three-county design to see but one example of Pennsylvania’s notorious gerrymandering. The York County portion of the district itself is not reachable by land or bridge, necessitating either a kayak trip across the Susquehanna or a long drive OUT of the district to get TO the district. Although twenty-five percent of District 48 constituents live in York County, there is no district office there. And with Lebanon County’s bare majority controlling this cruelly designed district’s plebiscite as coup de grâce, shouldn’t the “cracked” vestigial voters of York County be concerned that their votes don’t count?

Senate District 48 voters must insist that Mr. Gebhard inform them of his position on Senate Bill 222 before the May 18 election. For the sake of all Pennsylvanians. They deserve no less to make an informed decision.

Chris Bronder lives in York County, where he serves as the county co-coordinator for FairDistrictsPA.

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