UPT Redistricting Overview
UPDATE as of March 31, 2023
In January 2023, a bipartisan group of residents of Upper Providence Township sued the Township for illegally redistricting and gerrymandering Upper Providence via the ordinance passed on December 19th.
The Township Council, rather than meeting with petitioners in good faith to resolve key issues, instead filed a motion to have the lawsuit thrown out, saying it was nefarious and unwarranted. On March 31st, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas rejected this motion by the Township and sided with petitioners. The matter will proceed to trial on May 10th at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 8 of the Court of Common Pleas in Media. Read a full press release here. Stay tuned on our website for more information, and please subscribe to our newsletter for the most up-to-date information.
If you are able to and would like to support the legal challenge, the petitioners' have established a GoFundMe.
Update (as of December 19):
The Township Council, after originally proposing 4 maps and using a 5th map submitted by a citizen, went on to draw another 3 maps at the 11th hour in response to overwhelming pushback from the community. Unfortunately, none of their new maps solved the ultimate problem: they are gerrymandering Upper Providence for their political benefit ahead of the 2023 Council election.
Here is the Cliff Notes version of the final proposal, dubbed Map 8, which passed at the December 19th meeting:
1) It redraws and disrupts the 3rd, 4th and 5th districts wildly. The 4th district is completely overhauled, moving the vast majority of voters into the 5th district and recreating it with voters from the 3rd district. Almost 2500 Township residents are moved to a new district, when only 350 are needed to rebalance all districts. This mass movement of voters will imperil the 2024 Presidential election, with thousands of voters showing up to the wrong voting precinct, primarily Republicans in the affected districts.
2) Proposal 8 is a partisan gerrymander. The 4th district, currently a true toss-up, shifts 10 points in favor of the incumbent party and the Councilman drawing this map. It is shameless gerrymandering, and denial of this fact is astonishing and embarrassing. There is no legitimate possibility that a sitting Councilman can look residents in the face and tell them that shifting his district 10 points in his favor in an election year was dumb luck.
3) Proposal 8 truly divides our Township in two. Council likes to hide behind non-partisan motivations and a unified Township, but all the new map does is divide UPT into "Republicans" and "Democrats". The Council has drawn a map with 3 Democrat districts south of the bypass and 2 Republican districts north of the bypass. So much for unity: it's always been like that in this entire process. Probably explains why Council refuses to allow an independent, bipartisan commission draw the maps (like a GOP controlled Council did in 1990 when we last redistricted). The Democrat controlled Council pounced on an opportunity to gerrymander themselves into power for the foreseeable future: so much for unity.
4) Council has ignored legitimate public feedback from Day 1. A petition that has gathered hundreds of signatures from Republicans, Democrats and Independents calling for an independent commission of citizens to draw the maps was plainly ignored. Hundreds of public comments in-person and online calling for Map 3 (drawn by a citizen) to be used were ignored (in fact, Council lied to citizens and said Map 3 was not preferred, when a UPT GOP analysis showed that Map 3 was preferred in public comment more than Maps 1, 2, 4 and 5 combined). Again, make no mistake: Democrats took control of Township Council in 2019 and immediately undertook an effort to gerrymander UPT to cement their control. That's what this is. It's never been anything but that.
Read below for a summary of the original proposals and context of redistricting. Unfortunately the Township has hidden, deleted or removed most of the original documents off of the Township website (so much for transparency). Luckily, the UPT GOP was able to archive much of the data, which we've made available at the base of this article in a data library.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you could email your Councilperson and demand that they adopt fair districts in Upper Providence Township.
Marsha A. Peterson, 1st District
Email Marsha Peterson
Phone: 610-565-4944 ext. 116
Kevin Else, 2nd District
Email Kevin Else
Phone: 610-565-4944 ext. 117
Christen J. Rexing, 3rd District
Email Christen Rexing
Phone: 610-565-4944 ext. 118
Elgin Akarsoy, 4th District
Email Elgin Akarsoy
Phone: 610-565-4944 ext. 119
Thomas McFadden, 5th District
Email Thomas McFadden
Phone: 610-565-4944 ext. 120
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 Monday, December 19th. 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.
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.
Data Archive (files and information that the UPT GOP was able to salvage or download from the Township website before the Township hid or deleted the information without warning)
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.