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Does gerrymandering lead to congressional gridlock? - abc27 WHTM

Does gerrymandering lead to congressional gridlock?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

With its fiscal cliffs and sequestrations, Congress has been called broken and hopelessly and deadlocked.

Republicans blame Democrats, Democrats blast Republicans, while the nation's problems go mostly unfixed.

But could this very public failure by our elected leaders be caused by something few of us focus on? Barry Kauffman of Common Cause Pa. says yes.

"Redistricting is directly responsible for the huge divides we see in Congress," Kauffman said.

In Pennsylvania's new congressional map, the abc27 viewing area now has seven congressmen, all of them Republican. It used to have four, with Democrat Tim Holden.

Lou Barletta's 11th district runs from nearly New York in the north to nearly Maryland in the south. Charlie Dent's 15th district runs from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. Both acknowledge and have observed the problem in Washington.

"Many congressional districts are lopsidedly either Republican or Democrat," Dent said. "It certainly makes it much more difficult to find consensus on the bigger issues."

"I see it many times that we have elected officials who are there and they're worried about a primary on each side and therefore their votes reflect it sometimes," Barletta said.

Even moderate-leaning congressmen get pushed to the extremes, according to Kauffman.

"We have a system that makes the most liberal Democrats win their districts, and Republicans who are the most conservative in their districts win. When they get to D.C. they can't govern, they can't compromise," he said.

It is a nationwide problem. In 1992, there were 103 swing districts (Republicans and Democrats within 5 percent of each other). Today, there are 35. In the ten years between 2001 and 2011,  78 percent of the U.S. House seats did not change party.

"I'm a get-it-done type of person," added Barletta, "and it's frustrating for me to see that, especially with all these serious, serious problems we have."

"It is a growing problem that leads to greater polarization in the Congress," Dent said. "There's no quick or easy answer to that."

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