UPT Redistricting Overview

The Upper Providence Township Council is planning to redistrict Upper Providence Township for the first time in 30+ years ahead of the 2023 Council elections. The UPT GOP was immediately concerned that the 2 Council members leading the charge for redistricting are both sitting members of Council who happen to be up for re-election in 2023 in toss-up districts.
 

At their August meeting, Council initially provided 1 proposal that was developed by a sitting member of Council in isolation.  This plan was proposed to the public within zero public input. The initial proposal had several glaring and problematic issues, and the UPT GOP and some members of the public feedback forced them to reconsider. After just a month, the Council has now issued 5 total proposals on the Township website: 4 of these (Proposals 1, 2, 4 and 5) were drawn by the Democrat controlled UPT Council, and 1 was submitted by an independent UPT resident (Proposal 3). Two additional proposals that were submitted by citizens were not shared with the public on the Township website.

The stated rationale for redistricting UPT is because the 4th District is currently overrepresented. Only 16% of voters live in UPT4, though the target is 20%. The goal would be to bring all 5 Districts within ~1% of the 20% target.

Our analysis of UPT Council’s proposals shows several glaring issues and concerns about the approach and the disruption to residents that must be addressed. Please review them below and see the bottom of this page for next steps and how you can prevent biased and unnecessary redistricting.

To be clear: this is the Upper Providence Township Council redrawing the Upper Providence Township voting precincts (1st through 5th), and is unrelated to any other redistricting, including those that changed our State House District.

Problem 1: Gerrymandering

Currently, Upper Providence Township is a relatively evenly divided Township in terms of partisan breakdown. As such, the Township Council is very competitive. This keeps our politicians honest and makes them act in our best interests to earn the votes of all residents.

Currently, the 1st District is a D stronghold, the 2nd District leans towards D, the 3rd District is a toss-up, the 4th District is a toss-up and the 5th Distict is an R stronghold. In a Township with only a 5% difference in partisan registration, a Council representation that is 2-1 with 2 toss ups is extremely fair. It allows residents to make their voice heard and keep their elected representatives accountable if they aren't getting the job done.

Thus enters the alarming part. Proposals 1, 2, 4 and 5, the four created by the sitting Democrat councilmembers who happen to be up for re-election in 2023, shift the 2nd and 4th district wildly in favor of Democrats. Below is a table that summarizes the shift in those districts, and the results are alarming.

Suffice it to say, these alarming shifts to the left are astonishing and appear to be brazen attempts to gerrymander Upper Providence Township. All 4 proposals put forth by the Council take a competitive Upper Providence Township and permanently lock the Council in to Democrat control for the foreseeable future. They are all blatant gerrymanders. It's particularly damning that the lone proposal NOT created by the Council, but rather submitted by an independent citizen has little impact on the 2nd or 4th districts in their partisan lean.

 

Bottomline: A 6-10 point shift favoring the Democrat Councilmembers drawing the maps in their own districts 8 months before they run for re-election? The intent is clear.

Problem 2: Disruption

In order to make all the districts carry approximately equal population, it is necessary to disrupt some voters. Currently, the 1st and 2nd district are slightly underrepresented* (21% and 22% of voters, respectively) and the 4th is slightly overrepresented* (16% of voters).

Therefore, the goal of redistricting should be to move 1-2% of voters from the 1st and 2nd to the 4th so that all 5 districts are around 20% each, and to do so with as little disruption as possible. Logically, this can be achieved by moving as few as 3-5% of voters in the entire Township.

Disruption by Plan (% of voters moved to a new voting district)

Proposal 1: 30%

Proposal 2: 31%

Proposal 3: 4%

Proposal 4: 26%

Proposal 5: 22%

The 4 proposals by the Council (Props 1, 2, 4 and 5) move an ASTOUNDING 22-31% of voters in the Township to a new voting district. In a map where the population of the highest and lowest district are separated by only 6%, there is absolutely no mathematical rationale to move 1/3 of voters unless there is a blatant ulterior motive. Additionally, the UPT redistricting website provides meaningless metrics on cohesion, but NO metric to show the disruption that each proposal will cause to residents. Additionally, the current map of the existing districts is not provided to give residents an opportunity to visually see the drastic changes that the Council plans will cause to Township residents.

The UPT GOP is aware of the fact that three proposals were submitted by independent citizens of the Township that all moved under 5% of voters to achieve the necessary balance of voters. In fact, the Council on the UPT website admits that their goal is to achieve "Population Standardization (variance between 0% - 5% of mean)." Also important to mention is that the US Census Bureau, the source data on which Council is basing their entire decision to redistrict, has a 3% margin of error in block level data for UPT.

Bottomline: it is possible to standardize populations while moving under 5% of voters, yet Council has proposed all 4 of their plans to move over 22% (and up to 31%) of voters.  Additionally, Council has not been transparent in sharing disruption statistics for residents to have a full picture of the disruption that each proposal will create.

Problem 3: Lack of Transparency and Public Input

The redistricting process has been anything but transparent. The plan to redistrict Upper Providence Township appeared almost out of thin air in the middle of the summer, and was created in secrecy by one Council member. Council has made it quite clear that their intention is to ram the proposals through by end of year (because they're legally required to finish by that date if changes are to take place for the 2023 Council elections), yet they have yet to announce dates for final public review and have only released meeting agendas with redistricting topics days or even hours beforehand.

Additionally, UPT Council has plainly ignored several proposals sent to them by citizens of the Township which impacted less than 5% of voters, had minimal to no impact on partisan lean, and kept the compactness of all 5 districts.

Perhaps most concerning: when reminded by a member of the public that the 2 sitting Council members leading the redistricting effort voted to endorse a PA Fair Districts proposal in 2020 that called for an impartial citizen committee to draw maps, the UPT Council Chairman noted that the Fair Districts proposal was for statewide redistricting only, not for the Township. So is the implication that gerrymandering and a lack of public forum is acceptable for our Township? Why would we not hold our own community redistricting efforts to the same standard that we hold the State?

Bottomline: a fair, transparent process would have featured plentiful public forum, frequent back and forth with citizens, an independent group of citizens proposing maps and a clean process. Instead, we've been given 4 maps created in isolation with the intent to jam them through in the 3 months before the year ends to benefit the Councilmembers drawing them.

Problem 4: Conflict of Interest

Point blank: it's highly inappropriate for a sitting member of Township Council who is up for re-election in 8 months to not only decide that, for the first time in 30+ years, it is necessary to redistrict Upper Providence Township, but to draw the new proposed districts on their own. The optics are quite astonishing. Ignore the gerrymandering, ignore the lack of transparency - this is not how this process should be done. Especially ramming it through in the last 3 months of the year with zero public input. It's not acceptable.

Bottomline: sitting members of Council should not be drawing their own voting district boundaries at all, but especially within a year of their own re-election campaign.

What's Next? What Can You Do?

If you're concerned, frustrated or angry with these developments, let it be known that we share your sentiments. But we can make our voices heard, and we're going to let you know how to do that here.

1) Submit your comments in public feedback

The Township has opened a public comment forum on the Township website, but as of October 26th it may no longer be accepting feedback: PUBLIC COMMENT ONLINE

Alternatively, you could submit public feedback via email to info@upperprovidence.org

Or you could email your Councilperson and demand that they adopt fair districts in Upper Providence Township.

2) Attend Council Meetings and the Redistricting Public Comment Session

Council hosted a special meeting on Wednesday, November 2nd at the UPT Township Building where 40+ residents came out to make their voice heard. At the Thursday, November 10th Council Meeting, Council proposed a brand new map (never before seen by the public) as their final proposal - however, public outcry forced them to table the vote until a special meeting on Wednesday, November 16th at 7 PM. Please plan to attend this meeting.

 

Council will then vote to pass the map at their meeting on Thursday, December 8th. Please plan to attend these meetings if you want to make your voice heard and prevent this partisan gerrymandering. If we don't show up and make our voices heard, Council is going to ram through a gerrymandered map in an election year. It's that simple.

3) Share this website with your neighbors and sign the UPFFD petition

We should all have a vested interest in fair and free elections. Please share this information with your neighbors in UPT so they can learn about what is happening and get involved.

You can also sign a petition created by independent organization Upper Providence For Fair Districts on their website (UPFFD.net) or on the petition site.

4) Donate to the UPT GOP to help cover costs

Please consider a donation to the UPT GOP to help defray the costs of public outreach and other necessary marketing materials.

Disclaimers and Footnotes

*Overrepresented means that the District has fewer people than they should compared to other districts. Put simply: currently the 4th District has only 16% of voters, though the average district should have 20%. So less voters in District 4 get the same representation as more voters in other districts, making voters in the 4th District overrepresented versus other districts.