She did it once. She's doing it again. The powers that be should pay attention.
Amanda Holt draws fair and legal maps. Since our pols apparently can't (or won't), they should look to her for direction.
Holt, you may recall, was a 29-year-old, homeschooled, Allentown piano teacher with no college degree when she drew legislative maps that helped end Pennsylvania's last redistricting fight following the 2010 Census.
She did so because of her interest in politics and because she always did puzzles with her grandfather; crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles.
"The bigger and more challenging, the better," she says, adding, "as an avid genealogist, he also helped me to love research. Both skills served me well in redistricting."
Her maps led to a final 2012 map on state legislative districts. Not perfect, but better than what lawmakers tried to ram through. (Much better than the 2012 congressional maps at the center of the current scrum.)
In the process, Holt shook the state's staid political mindset, proving that map-drawing wasn't difficult – if, that is, the goal is adherence to law and fairness to voters rather than protecting partisanship.
Now, six years later, we're all about partisanship: A Democratic court fighting with a Republican legislature over the shape of congressional maps, resulting in an election-year conundrum with potential for chaos.
"It'll be interesting to see how this goes," Holt says.
So far, it isn't going well.
Since the Supreme Court ruled Jan. 22 that maps for our 18 congressional districts (13 held by Republicans) are unconstitutional, there's been a flurry of litigation and threats of more, and jawboning, jitters and confrontation.
The latest is a new map that GOP leaders offered last Friday in an effort to beat a court-ordered deadline. It's a shock, but Democrats don't like it. The fight goes on.
It's messy. A Democratic court says Republicans rigged elections through partisan gerrymandering to help Republicans. Republicans say the Democratic court is rigging the process by overstepping its authority in order to help Democrats.
The heart of the argument is how much politics there should be in politics.
Some say victors get the spoils, elections have consequences; if your party is in power, your party gets to draw maps to further help or protect your party.
Others say fairness is the soul of democracy; there should be as little partisan politics as possible in drawing lines for democratic elections.
Those adhering to the former are OK with map-drawers using voter registration data and voting-trend/voter-performance metrics to gain a partisan edge.
Those clinging to the latter want Holt maps, drawn without political tools, based solely on population and a commitment to not split municipalities.
She calls the latest GOP map better than the current one, but still with too many splits. You can see her suggested map, comments and data at amandae.com.
She's no joke.
With limited resources, she drew maps the court found useful in reducing gerrymandering. She was honored for her work. A public-service award from Common Cause. An Impact Award from the American Association of University Women. The Patriot-News named her its 2012 "Citizen of the Year."
She's now 35, an elected Republican Lehigh County commissioner.
She suggests she can do again what she did before. I suggest people take a look-see.
Otherwise, we face more bickering, more litigation, a constitutional clash, maybe moving the May primary, all while a state House member — Jefferson County GOP Rep. Cris Dush — seeks support for impeaching the five Democratic justices on the seven-member state Supreme Court.
This thing needs to get cooled down, and I mean in a hurry.
It's good that gerrymandering is getting attention from courts, lawmakers and the public. Kudos to the League of Women Voters for its anti-gerrymandering lawsuit, the basis for current focus. Kudos to Fair Districts PA for grassroots work on the issue statewide. But it's time to settle this for the 2018 elections.
Amanda Holt helped once. I bet she could help again.