PARKESBURG, PA — When many think of gerrymandering, it is in connection with state and federal level elections. Additionally, it is often characterized as a form of partisan politics and a way for one political party to have an unfair advantage. Yet, gerrymandering is the manipulation of election boundaries for the advantage of any group, not just political parties. In the Octorara Area School District, some would allege that School Board officials intentionally make use of gerrymandering “cracking” to dilute the voting power of Borough of Parkesburg residents.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Parkesburg has 3,593 residents and is the largest municipality within the School District. However, Parkesburg’s voters are split between Octorara’s Region 1 and Region 3. “Until recently I assumed gerrymandering was a fact of life- I have lived Parkesburg all my adult life and knew nothing else,” states Mel Keen, a former Parkesburg Borough Councilperson. “I think Parkesburg was split to reduce Parkesburg voter power. Now we have little say since the majority of both regions is from townships.”
The claimed impact of “cracking” Parkesburg is for the “packing” of voters from less populated communities into election regions. Regardless, gerrymandering has significant impacts on the representation received by voters in any gerrymandered district or region. Ultimately, gerrymandering’s goal is to design election regions that increase the number of wasted votes among a certain segment and drastically alter that group’s actual share of the voting population. So, by diluting Parkesburg’s voting power, some would contend that the Octorara Area School District can ignore or dismiss the Borough’s needs.