Jogging Against Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania
by Eileen McGuire-Mahony
Harrisburg, PENNSYLVANIA: In the last month, Paul Mathison has run the equivalent of almost 40 marathons – 1,022 miles around the state to chat with politicians and voters, all of whom were welcome to get out their own running shoes, in a bid to raise awareness about redistricting in the Keystone State.
Pennsylvania's loss of a seat in the U.S. House takes the delegation as of January 2013 down to 18, half the size it was in 1945. With the GOP enjoying a trifecta, Democrats are resigned to seeing one of their seats cut and are battling to minimize additional losses. Republicans enjoyed similar power ten years ago, and their aggressive moves to try to extend that power backfired and cost them their political dominance throughout the mid-00s. Now back on top, they may have retooled their approach, but the highly politicized redistricting dance and both party's constant efforts to squeeze out every advantage led to Pennsylvania having some of the nation's most serpentine political boundaries.
It was those lines that led Mathison, himself a political consultant, to start the PennUltimate Run. He laid out his reasons in a 'Blue Paper', something he described as, “...a compilation of white papers that have been presented ad infinitum on an issue to a point where people begin to turn blue in the face" and joked with reporters that, by the halfway point, he had been stopped by police three times. In each case, a citizen had assumed the stroller with Mathison supplies had a baby out in freezing weather.
Mathison may have ended his race 11 days ahead of schedule, but Pennsylvania's legislature is still only beginning its work. After hitting a road block over naming the commission members, lawmakers announced they would optimistically like to have a map ready for Governor Tom Corbett by the autumn and realistically were aiming for Christmas.
The five member commission has begun public hearings and met privately to set out guidelines for their work. Further public meetings are already set around the state through this month and June. As yet, no commission members have announced plans to jog to any of the meetings.