The 4 plans proposed by the Township/County, where thousands of residents are moved to a new voting district, result in a substantial partisan shift in the 2nd and 4th Districts that moves the balance of electors in favor of the political party of the Council members up for re-election in those districts. Alternative plans provided by independent residents, which propose moving less than 5% of residents, do not meaningfully impact the party balance of registered voters balance across the Township.
Currently, according to list of registered voters in the Township, UPT is fairly evenly divided in terms of its partisan breakdown. As such, Township Council is very competitive, and for good reason. It keeps our politicians honest and makes them act in our best interests to earn the votes of all residents.
Currently, the 1st District leans strongly towards Democratic voters and the 2nd District leans slightly Democratic. The 3rd and 4th Districts are both toss-ups, and the 5th District leans strongly towards Republican voters. This mixture of views, in addition to the number of independent and other party registrants, allows Township residents to make their voices 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 drawn or adapted from an analysis completed by a current sitting Council member who is up for re-election in 2023, swing the partisan leaning of the 2nd and 4th districts (the two up for re-election) wildly in favor of their party (as high as a 10-point gain).
A well-regarded rule when establishing districts, is that individual addresses, political affiliation of registered voters, and previous election results, should not factor into the development of districts. Yet at the September 22 Council meeting, during the Administrative Committee discussion, Mr. Else admitted to changing his initial redistricting proposal, specifically because his plan moved another sitting Council member out of her district. He admitted to modifying his plan to accommodate an individual address and based on previous election results! (Link - see Administrative Committee report:Sept 22 Council Meeting Minutes)
Suffice it to say, these alarming partisan shifts with the over-orchestrated plans designed to keep a sitting Council member in their current district, are astonishing and brazen attempts to gerrymander Upper Providence Township. The goal seems fairly obvious: the 4 proposals put forth by the Council take a fair and competitive Upper Providence Township and permanently lock the Council into a very partisan control for the foreseeable future. It's particularly damning that the lone proposal (Plan #3) shared on the website that was NOT created by the Council, but rather submitted by an independent resident has little impact on the 2nd or 4th districts (or any district, for that matter) in their partisan lean. Additionally, the two additional plans submitted by independent residents also have little to no impact on partisan lean but have not even been shared with UPT residents for consideration!
From a RTK request that was filed with the County to understand the interaction between UPT and the County, UPFFD came to learn that the Township used an app called app.districtbuilder.org to move census blocks around within the Township. As an individual moves census blocks around within a perimeter, the app automatically calculates the partisan lean of the newly-created district! This feature cannot be turned off! Although the Township says that partisan leans were not considered in the drawing of their maps, they had the information right in front of them as they created new districts! (see screenshot below from the app that shows an intentionally gerrymandered map of our Township).
Bottom-line: Excess resident movement and disruption creates a 6-10 point partisan shift that strongly favors the political party of UPT Council members who are drawing maps for their own districts just 8 months before their re-election. This is certainly suspect! We deserve better!