Letters to the Editor
Comment period too limiting
Representative Clint Owlett provided information in last week’s newspaper about the upcoming public hearing at the Firemen’s Annex in Wellsboro on Oct. 12 regarding Congressional redistricting. Concerned citizens may submit written comments until Oct. 13 to be considered by the House State Government Committee by visiting www.PARedistricting.com. The deadline to register to share testimony for the Northcentral hearing is Oct. 6.
Having visited the site for submitting comments, I was disappointed to read that comments must be confined to Congressional redistricting and must only address our own Congressional district boundaries. This, of course, eliminates an opportunity to speak for fair districts across the state, where, unfortunately, egregious partisan gerrymandering exists for both Congressional and state legislative districts.
Another restriction of the hearing is that citizens who wish to offer oral testimony must submit their comments in writing for the committee’s review, also by Oct. 6 (unfortunate because that deadline is before the publication of this week’s paper, when the original notice only appeared in last week’s issue). The committee will then notify in advance those people whose comments have been selected to be shared at the hearing. This restriction, ostensibly, is to prevent irrelevant testimony from consuming the limited time of the hearing. However, this deadline provided only a few days to prepare and submit informed testimony and could limit the full range of viewpoints at the hearing.
Furthermore, the location of the hearing in Wellsboro is convenient for Tioga County citizens who wish to attend. However, it is decidedly inconvenient for the residents of other counties that comprise the defined Northcentral Region covered by the hearing. These include Mckean, Potter, Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Clearfield, Centre, Union, Snyder, Northumberland and Montour counties.
Concerned citizens who wish to learn more about the drawing of district boundaries and how they may influence fair representation at both the state and federal level will find excellent resources at www.fairdistrictspa.com, as well as the websites of Common Cause Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters.
Fair representation is an essential component of a thriving democracy, as are informed voters. All Pennsylvania registered voters deserve to have their votes counted, and the results should provide the most equitable representation possible. I urge your readers to protect the power of their own votes by learning more about fair districts and submitting their comments to the House State Government Committee.
Mary Anne Heston