It appears the joke is on us

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New Congressional districts slice and dice area, make 2012 elections kind of pointless

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
In case you missed it, the final phase of the 2012 Congressional elections are going to be held next week. And the results, it appears, are already in.

Turn out, considering it was such a key election in Pennsylvania, was surprisingly light. Less than 300 votes, as it ended up.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that’s a bit of an exaggeration. All that actually is happening is the formal legislative approval of the new Congressional districts here in Pennsylvania. The state Senate, rushing between stops to pick up those holiday campaign contributions, approved the plan with no public hearing last week, while the house is expected to follow suit this week, with the governor signing it shortly thereafter.

The new districts appear, from here, to have been drawn to prevent any of them being lost to incumbents, beyond the one seat Pennsylvania must lose due to population shifts.

Shocking, I know.

Obviously, this was a kindness, as we Americans so deeply and thoroughly love our current Congress and heaven knows, we want to make sure each and every one of them stays in office until they get a better offer to lobby their former colleagues.

The Republican-controlled state house and our beloved Gov. Tom Corbett seem ready to sign off on the new map, although undoubtedly there will be court challenges aplenty — not to mention that the state Senate barely approved it. And just to be clear, had the Democrats been in control and had an option to draw the map, it would have been just as rigged, awful and non-competitive, just favoring their party rather than the GOP. Feel free to ignore the disingenuous map the Democrats distributed, it was nothing more than propaganda and nothing like what would have come to pass were they in power.

Heck, at least with Corbett and the GOP, they’re upfront about where they’re coming from, unlike former Gov. Ed Rendell who claimed to be all about open government, us little people and democracy, yet was just as quick to sell you and me out to the highest bidder.

And while it’s a statewide problem, sadly, we here in the greater Unionville Metroplex are pretty much the poster children for redistricting run utterly and completely amuck.

First, there was Friday the 13th. Then, as you younger readers might recognize, the 37 Saw movies. But now, we have a real horror show on our hands:

The Seventh Congressional District. (Cue scary music and teenagers fleeing in terror).

Described as looking like anything from roadkill to something like a deranged bullmoose (I offered a lame duck…but no one else saw the resemblance), the new seventh is a work of art, well, at least if you consider the film catalog of Leni Riefenstahl to be art, that is.

While there’s literally hundreds of thrilling small details, there’s a couple of local ones I particularly love.

In light of last month’s caterwauling by some local GOPr’s about how “unfair” voter turnout at local senior housing complex Crosslands was, one might note the irony of splitting up a pair local municipalities just, it would seem, to slice off Kendal and Crosslands from the 7th. I’m kind of confused why just one precinct in Pennsbury needed to be shunted to the 16th…and why just a couple of miles away, a particular little lifeline was stretched to keep Kendal out of the 7th.

Obviously, from a demographic standpoint, it was crucial to make sure that the 16th had enough Quakers and had nothing to do with Democratic votes that could have hurt U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan. Nope. Nothing at all.

From a math and demographic basis, one could have flipped two Kennett Township precincts into the 16th and kept Pennsbury in the 7th, while allowing a more organic inclusion of Kennett Square in the 16th. So, when folks tell you these maps were created to be carefully crafted to make sure populations were balanced, well, how do I put it, hmmmm….they’d be lying.

Obviously, the district was shaped to maximize GOP vote in the 7th and shift Democratic-leaning votes into the 16th, which features a large block of Republican vote out in Lancaster and beyond.

To be sure, the Democrats would have been as bad or worse, likely merging the 7th and 6th districts to push out either Meehan or U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach and tweaking the suburban Philly districts to make them more Democratic friendly. Undoubtedly, Democrats would have found a way to push Traditions in East Marlborough into a congressional district better matching its voting performance, say in Alabama.

Yeah, it’s gotten that bad.

Look, I know gerrymandering is an old American tradition — in fact, we’re coming up on the 200th anniversary of the term being coined. But there was always a pretense that the districts were kinda, sorta fair — and that actual elections could be held. But we’ve reached such a cynical point that it’s just easier and cheaper to decide these pesky Congressional elections in December in Harrisburg, but without sparing us months of nasty TV commercials, so we can all pretend there’s an actual election.

And folks wonder why voter turnout is lousy.

You might ask what can we do about this? Well, we could vote out those who supported this plan, including our local state representatives and state senator.

I pause now to allow you to stop laughing.

It’s not going to happen, partly because they all just got their districts redrawn to (mostly) make them easier to win, but truth be told, we like our local legislators. It’s those other guys we hate, those greedy, rotten, self-serving folks from elsewhere in the state who are behind the rigging of our elections. Not our guys.

Oh wait…our guy (unless you live in West Marlborough, where your state Senator Andy Dinniman voted against the district plan) is the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Dominic Pileggi, so….this was pretty much his dance. Ooops. And, uh, he redistricted his only declared (and frankly, semi-interesting and/or competitive) opponent, former State Rep. Tom Houghton out of his district earlier this year, so there’s not much likelihood of the voters giving Pileggi a headstart on his career lobbying in Harrisburg.

You may have seen some complaints about the election in Russia being rigged recently. But to be honest, Vladimir Putin seems to have a lot to learn from our very own Sen. Pileggi. Makes you all kinds of proud, don’t it?

And so it goes.

* * *

Congratulations to Unionville High football star Richard Sampson, who was named Ches-Mont League American Division Player of the year. The senior tailback — now a key player on the school’s basketball team — had one of the greatest seasons in school history. Word is a number of small Division 1 schools are looking hard at Sampson, so we may well be hearing more of the dynamic running back in years to come.

Congratulations to Tyler Bowman, Mark Caputo and Matt Maggetti who were named to the all-conference team, along with Samspon. Tom Pancoast, Tim Christopher and Doug Ott were honorable mention.

Ott was also named to the all academic team.

And Unionville didn’t just have something to brag about in football, as the other fall sports were equally well represented.

In boys soccer, Sam Yarosh, Josh Krapf, Perry Hopkins and Alex Jule were all named to the first team, all-Ches-Mont American team, with Matt Stewart picked for the second team.

In girls’ soccer, Maddy Ferraro and Katherine Webber were named to all-conference first team, with Becca Fieles, Kristen Newbrough, Beth Dine, Maddie Bove, Janine Mueller and Sammi Ortiz all earning second team honors.

In field hockey, Annabeth Donovan and Sammy Carlino were named to the All-Ches-Mont first team, while Brielle Hartzell was named to the second team and Erin Karcher and Alyssa Hughes earned second team honors. Brett Perkins won honorable mention.

In cross country, Anne Birkenmaiser was first team all-conference, while Samantha Collins and Emily Fisher were second team.

In volleyball, Chelsea Rafetto and Emily Senegeto won first team Ches-Mont American Division honors, while Becky Baptiste and Sophia Paffas won honorable mention.

In tennis, Zania Zakie and Jacki Lane were named first team for singles, while Ally Lane/Kelsey Walden, Julie Oeste/Alyssa Chang and Krista Diehl/Brinley Bartlett were tabbed as doubles teams. Nicole Bernstein/Aileen Bevard won honorable mention for doubles.

Congratulations to all of the honorees.

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