Jessica Forsell of Doylestown

Everything about the 2016 election cycle troubled me – the options, the debased rhetoric, the lack of focus on actual policy issues, and ultimately, the outcome. However, the gift of democracy requires active participation and it occurred to me that I had done exactly nothing except show up to vote.

While I felt a strong calling to get involved and serve a greater good on behalf of our country, I didn’t know where to start. I knew a nonpartisan effort would be the best fit since I don’t affiliate with a party. And between work and my three young daughters, life was already quite busy.

Fortunately, I was connected to Carol Kuniholm, head of Fair Districts PA, who needed help building and scaling the organization’s communications capabilities, particularly in social media. This has been a great fit for my personal belief system and professional experience in marketing. I may only have a limited amount of time to give, but I’m determined to use it wisely and make an impact.

Why redistricting reform?

I’m a government reform hawk. There are so many changes needed to inject more competition into the political system and create a more effective legislative branch. Everyone should read a paper, Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America,  by Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School.A strategy for reinvigorating our democracy. 

Redistricting reform is a great place to start because it has such a large impact in terms of who is elected to represent us. While the issue of gerrymandering can get very wonky and technical, just check out a few convoluted district shapes and it’s obvious these could only result from some serious political shenanigans.  Having more competitive districts will force legislators to think more broadly about their constituents, not just the primary voters from their own party. This should result in elected officials who are more effective in working across party lines to find common ground and address the many important problems facing our state and country.

Draw the Lines

I’ve followed the Draw the Lines PA effort closely since the team presented at a redistricting conference in Harrisburg. DTL combines my interests in redistricting reform, civic education, technology (fun fact – my first job out of college involved using mapping software, albeit in the private sector.) I was thrilled to organize a DTL event here in Bucks Co. My daughters even dropped by to put together the congressional map puzzle.

The Forsell children do the DTL puzzle

Reform and  national unity

I’m extremely concerned about the level of divisiveness and hyper-partisanship in politics today. It’s toxic for our country and weakens our communities. The most extreme voices on the left and the right dominate the political narrative, at the expense of including more diverse voices and different viewpoints (particularly on social media).

One thing almost all of us agree on, however, is being dissatisfied with the status quo in politics and desiring change. Government reform initiatives have the potential to unite individuals across the political spectrum in working towards common goals, while at the same time strengthening our participatory democracy and the country we all love.