Category Archives: Voting & districts

School Shootings – An American Tragedy

by Tom Buglio

In light of the recent horrific Parkland, Florida school shooting, once again Americans are faced with the stark reality of gun violence happening in a place that should be among the safest for our children: their schools. The shooting by a disturbed young man with an AR-15 is just the latest mass atrocity involving guns in school, as there have been 18 shootings this young year, and over 200 since Sandy Hook in 2012!

Nowhere else in the developed world is there this kind of carnage. What is to be done? Do we have to accept the need for making our schools into secured fortresses with metal detectors, and armed guards? Do we need to put more $ into identifying emotionally challenged children? Do we arm teachers and administrators, as we surely will hear calls for from the gun rights side. Should we ban the semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 which caused so much bloodshed in such a short amount of time in Newtown, Aurora, Parkland and Las Vegas?

All of these ideas and more need consideration, but more than that, they need ACTION! How can any responsible school teacher or administrator not think about the next school shooting, which is surely coming.

Many school districts have spent a vast amount of time and $ fortifying their schools, as communicated by Dr. Scanlon, Superintendent of West Chester Area Schools in a recent news article. It is truly impressive, and disturbing what schools have to do to create a sense of security today. Parkland School practiced many of the same safety measures, including a drill on the same day of the shooting, to no avail.

I submit that, while we need to do everything we can with our schools to protect children, the crux of the problem is that we live in a society where it is too easy to get a gun. And the reality is that with the current makeup of Congress, nothing at a national level will change. For those politicians who feel it is more important to protect gun rights and the 2nd amendment than it is their children and grandchildren, or to protect their current status collecting money from the NRA, shame on them!

Real change will happen when we give these politicians the boot, and vote into power courageous legislators unafraid of the NRA, willing to plug the many gaps in our system that enabled a troubled young man to fantasize about becoming a famous school shooter, acquiring an arsenal of deadly weapons, and then making his fantasy into a terrible reality.

The aftermath of Parkland is depressingly familiar, as we see the agony and grief of families trying to make sense of the senseless. But it feels different: there is a wave of anger in the survivors and families of the victims that is palpable, demanding their government do something NOW!

If we want to truly make progressive change in terms of reducing gun violence, we all need to get angry and hold onto this anger through the next election. Make sure you vote, and that the person who gets your vote will protect our children, and not the gun industry. For only when we have elected officials truly committed to gun safety will we see real change.

Governor Wolf Statement on Remedial Congressional Map from PA Supreme Court

Governor Wolf, February 19, 2018

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released the following statement on the new remedial congressional map ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:

“Over the last month, I have personally heard from thousands of Pennsylvanians and they are sick and tired of gerrymandering, which perpetuates gridlock, alienates citizens and stifles reform. I have stood for fairness and rejected a proposed map that was universally seen as another partisan gerrymander. I applaud the court for their decision and I respect their effort to remedy Pennsylvania’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

“Now, my focus will be on making sure the Department of State can support our counties and all candidates in the election process, particularly during the petition period. My administration will work expeditiously to update Department of State systems and ensure all processes are in place to assist candidates for Congress.”

Here’s the new map, from ABC News:

The last-minute Republican leaders’ map split Chester County between 2 districts and put parts of 3 counties in the 6th district. The Supreme Court’s decision puts all of Chester County in the 6th, which is only fair atonement for the outgoing gerrymander, considering that the County has 5/7 of the population of one district. In fact, the map does a great job of keeping county splits to a minimum, both in SE PA and in the state as a whole.

Expectations of a Mapmaker

By Amanda, 18.Feb.2018

With the failure of the General Assembly and Governor to approve a map by the court deadline, it now falls to Nathaniel Persily to draw Pennsylvania’s next congressional map. This court-appointed special master is known for his skills as a mapmaker in other states. No matter how skilled, no one is perfect. How will we know if he gets it right in Pennsylvania?
Population Deviation

The court directive to keep counties and municipalities whole was clear. Strong constitutional language bans any splits that are not necessary. Federal courts provide states with some flexibility to district population so they may protect the boundaries of their local governments.

In some instances, by creating districts which vary slightly in population, counties and municipalities may stay whole which would otherwise be split. Pennsylvania law does not require mathematical equality. Federal law allows small deviations to avoid splits.

What does this mean? A split is not “absolutely necessary” when by using a small population variance the result would respect more local government boundaries than is possible by using no variance….

keep reading by Amanda

Plenty of room to move up in voter turnout

Chart from “U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout” by Drew DeSilver, Pew Research Center, 5/15/17:

U.S. turnout in November 2016 was 56% of the voting age population (blue dots in the chart), 59% of citizens who could have registered and voted, but 87% of registered voters (yellow dots in the chart), a criterion that puts the US much higher in international standings. According to census data, only 70% of voting-age US citizens are registered to vote.

Can the remaining 30% be encouraged to register and vote? Certainly efforts in many states are going the other way, due to intimidating voter ID measures. We are fortunate in Pennsylvania that Governor Wolf established, three years ago, on-line voter registration (deadline to register for this spring’s primary election: 4/16/18).

According to Department of State data, the turnout in November 2016 was 78% of registered voters in Chester County, so unfortunately we were well behind the 87% national average. Clinton won by 25,000 votes, but her margin would likely have been higher if more people had voted, because turnout tends to favor Democrats.

US census data show Chesco has 367,554 US citizens age 18+, of whom 268,800 voted for president in 2016, thus 73% (compared to US 59%, so that looks better for us). Because Voter Services data include many voters who no longer live here, this 73% is probably the most significant figure.

Thus 27% of eligible Chesco voters either were not registered to vote or were registered and did not vote.Those 27% are the challenge for 2018.

If you know someone who needs to be convinced to register and/or vote, see the arguments here and then go to work.