PA Supreme Court Overturns Congressional Map

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital


This morning, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s Congressional District map as being unconstitutional and ordered that a new plan for the 18 Congressional districts in the state is to be redrawn.  Five of the seven Supreme Court Justices ruled that the maps were unconstitutional.  And four of the seven Justices ordered that the maps be redrawn in the next few weeks.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has until February 9 – 18 days from now to redraw the lines. Governor Tom Wolf has until February 15 to sign off on this plan.  If the legislature fails to meet its deadline and/or Governor Wolf fails to sign off on the plan submitted to him, the PA Supreme Court will create their own map based on information received by the lower, Commonwealth Court.

The state is then expected to publish the new districts by February 19 and, if necessary, readjust the election petitioning process to ensure that the May 15, 2018, primary takes place as scheduled.

This decision is based on Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  In its order, the state Supreme Court used words directly from our state constitution describing why creating districts based on partisan association is unconstitutional.

I located the order from the Supreme Court.  The case is known as League of Women Voters et al. v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.  Here’s the statement that says the current map is unconstitutional.

First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act
of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.
Accordingly, its further use in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States
House of Representatives, commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary, is
hereby enjoined.

And using text from the state Constitution, the Court mandates that the new map be redrawn to the following specifications:

Fourth, to comply with this Order, any congressional districting plan shall consist
of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly
equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city,
incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure
equality of population.

If the PA Senate GOP appeal to the US Supreme Court to stay this decision is turned down, all 18 districts will be redrawn. This includes the highly gerrymandered PA’s 7th Congressional District (aka “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck”) in the southeast and the 12th Congressional District (aka “The Hammer”) in the southwest.

Here’s what the current Congressional District map looks like with 13 Republicans and 5 Democratic US House Representatives.  There are many possibilities as to what the new, non-partisan districts might look like.  Stephen Wolf has presented one possible non-partisan alternative that could result in as many as 11 or as few as 6 Democratic Congressional seats.  The revised map will almost certainly differ from this initial idea designed by a single, non-elected person. But it does show that it is possible to create a non-partisan district map.


Pennsylvania_Comparison_2018 potential non-partisan districts

Current Gerrymandered and Hypothetical Nonpartisan Pennsylvania Congressional Districts. Attribution: Stephen Wolf

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania for taking the lead in this case.


Swearing-In of Public Officials for Centre County and Bellefonte Borough Council

Every two years, Bellefonte Borough elects about half of members of the nine-member council and every four years, we elect our Mayor.  This year, five people were elected to four-year terms on council and one person was elected to a two-year term to fill a position that was vacated by a former council person. In addition, this was the year we elected our Mayor.

Their terms start on Monday, January 1, 2018.  But since January 1st is a national holiday, the county decided to hold the swearing-in ceremonies for the county-wide offices and for Bellefonte Borough on Friday, December 29, 2017.  We hold his joint swearing-in ceremony at the same time because the county seat is located in our borough of Bellefonte.  All of the other municipalities hold their own ceremony.

I was sworn into office two years ago but decided to attend today’s ceremony in honor of my fellow colleagues. I was able to snag a front-row seat and was, therefore, able to record each of their oaths of office.

The program started at 9 am.  As people entered the courtroom, we were each handed this program listing all of the participants and the oath of office.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were six people sworn into county-level offices by the four currently seated judges on the Court of Common Pleas.

Retiring Judge Thomas Kistler administered the oath of office to President Judge Pamela Ruest who retained her position for another ten years. She is the first female to have served as a Centre County Judge and is now the first women to hold the position of President Judge. Once she took her oath of office, President Judge Ruest administered the oath to everyone else.

The county-level officials sworn into office include two Court of Common Pleas judges – one new (Brian Marshall) and President Judge Pamela Ruest as well our new District Justice Casey McClain (D), our new District Attorney Bernie Cantorna (D), and one new (Jason Moser (D)) and one re-elected (Hope Miller (R)) Jury Commissioner.

Most of the new public officials brought their immediate family to stand with them when they were sworn in. One person—Bernie Cantona—invited his entire extended family to stand with him.  I don’t know how many people that was, but it looked like at least 1/3 of the people in the courtroom joined him up front when he was sworn in as the new District Attorney:

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna 20171229_091439

District Attorney Bernie Cantorna (D) and his extended family at the swearing-in ceremony.

Once the County-level officers were sworn in, the judges then swore in Mayor Tom Wilson and five of the six Bellefonte Borough Council Members.  Evan Duffy, the individual elected to the two-year term was not present and will be sworn in at a later date.

Newly sworn-in council members and mayor 20171229_092854

Newly Sworn-in Members of the Bellefonte Borough Administration. Left to Right: Council Member Jon Eaton, Council Member Michael Prendergast, Mayor Tom Wilson, Council Member Randy Brachbill, Council Member Melissa Hombosky, and Council Member Anne Walker.

Meanwhile, here are videos of the Bellefonte members being sworn into office.

Mayor Wilson (R) was sworn into his second term as Mayor.  Prior to being Mayor, he had served as a member of the Council.

The first member of Council to be sworn in was G. Michael Prendergast(D). He will join me in representing Bellefonte’s West Ward.  This is his first term in public office.

Following Mike, Anne Walker (D) was sworn in. She too is a first-time member of the Council and will also be joining me in representing the West Ward.

Melissa Hombosky (D) was next to be sworn in. She represents the North Ward and this will be her first full four-year term; she was appointed to a vacated seat by the previous Council in the spring of 2016 and will now serve a full four-year term.

Randy Brachbill (R), representing the South Ward, was next to be sworn in. He has served several terms on Council and most recently has served as Vice-President of Council. New officers will be elected out our first meeting on January 2, 2018.

Following Randy, Jon Eaton (D) was sworn in. Jon is representing the North Ward with Melissa Hombosky. He is another first-time member of Council.

Evan Duffy (R) will be sworn in on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, for a two-year term. He will be representing the South Ward and will be up for reelection in 2020.

The remaining three members of Council who were not sworn in today will stand for re-election in 2020. They are myself (D) representing the West Ward, Doug Johnson (D) representing the North Ward, and Renee Brown (R) representing the South Ward.

With this new makeup, Bellefonte Borough maintains gender parity with four women and five men serving as council members. With this gender parity, civility now reigns on our council. I agree with Renee Brown; we are now held more accountable to the public. I believe that’s the way it should be. (You can read this article  on gender parity in the Centre County Gazette to see why the women on Council generally feel this way.)

I’m looking forward to working with all of the members of Council—both male and female. Congratulations everyone!

Farewell, America

Originally published in Moyers & Co., Neal Gable calls upon the media to bear true witness to what is happening since the election of Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, and the consequences that result:

“…[T]he disempowered media may have one more role to fill: They must bear witness. Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.

We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.”

Central Oregon Coast NOW

No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently.

memorial The sun sets behind the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country…

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Watch “Michael Moore in Trumpland”!

This video cost $4.99 through either Amazon or iTunes but should be well worth the 70 minutes of showtime.

And remember to vote and vote wisely on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.


Central Oregon Coast NOW

trumplandIf you’re still on the sidelines when it comes to this election, or if you’re feeling conflicted about voting for Hillary, or if you love Michael Moore’s films and are a strong Hillary supporter, then I strongly encourage you to take an hour and 10 minutes right now and check out “Michael Moore in Trumpland”. No one else has made the unique and persuasive arguments Michael Moore is making in “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” — and  you’ll want to hear what Moore has to say and share it with your friends and family. If you’re in need of a “pick-me-up” today, this is the movie for you.

You can get it on iTunes here.Or you can get it at Amazon by clicking here.Both of them, are letting people buy it and OWN it (not just “rent” it) for under five bucks.

So if you’re feeling fed up by this election and…

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Elections Have Been Certified: I Won!


Today I received a letter from the Centre County PA Elections Office. This letter was sent to all newly elected and re-elected officials that ran for public office in the 2015 Municipal and County elections.

Here’s the letter:

scan of the official Centre County Office of Elections certification letter

Election Certification Letter

Attached to the letter was a black and white xerox copy of the “Certificate of Election” that will officially be presented to me on Monday evening, January 4, 2016.  At this re-organizational meeting of Council, I will be Continue Reading

Tosti-Vasey Bellefonte 2015: Vote for a Change in Leadership

 Picture of Tosti-Vasey yard sign

Joanne Tosti-Vasey’s yard sign. Created by local artist Mary Vollero. The former Garman Opera House is pictured in this sign.

On May 19, 2015, I won the Democratic primary election for Bellefonte borough’s West Ward seat against a 32-year incumbent by almost a two-one majority. He won the write-in vote on the Republican ticket.  So we are having a ” do-over” contest in the General election on Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

I have been very active all summer and fall campaigning for this seat.  Talking to local businesses. Attending house parties (the big Open House Party is being held this coming Sunday at a local art studio), door knocking, and putting out yard signs all around town.

In addition to these direct contact events, I also attended a debate at the end of September held by the Centre County League of Women Voters. And answered their Voters’ Guide questionnaire that will be included in a county-wide voters guide that will be sent to the public about a week before the November 3rd election.

Then on October 11, I was interviewed by Jeremy Hartley, a reporter for the Centre Daily Times.  We discussed how my campaign is going, my background and thoughts on major issues for the town, parking in Bellefonte, development of the downtown and waterfront areas of town, attracting residents and investors, affordable housing, and the budget and expanding the tax base.  The video of this interview was taped by C-NET, our local cable television station.  C-NET gave me permission to distribute this tape. So here it is for your viewing.

Take a few minutes to hear what I had to say and why I’m running for borough council. If you are local and want to learn more about me in a fun venue, come to Mary’s Open House on Sunday, October 25. And then come out and vote for me on November 3 if you live in Bellefonte’s 3rd Ward. Regardless of where you live, you can also volunteer/donate – email me at and we’ll fit you in!


Team Tosti-Vasey 2015 General Election Open House

Open House

Mary’s Pink Church

October 25, Sunday, 3:00-5:00

picture of Mary's Pink Art Church

Mary Vollero’s Pink Art Church and Studio located in Unionville, PA. For more information on this art gallery/studio, go to

Meet the Candidates:
Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Bellefonte Borough
Michael Pipe, County Commissioner
Mark Higgins, County Commissioner
Amanda McCartneyRegister of Wills

Coffee & cake & tea & cookies

RSVP not needed. Come one, Come all!

LOCATION: Unionville, Centre County, PA
Old 220 and Rattlesnake Pike
GPS: 180 Union St., Julian, PA 16844
Park behind church, near Community Center.
Cross foot bridge. Enter at red door.

For more info about Mary’s Pink Church, go to

If you’d like to let me know you are coming, go to

Joanne Tosti-Vasey for Bellefonte Borough Council

On May 19, 2015, I will be standing outside my precinct polling place asking my constituents to vote for me in the 2015 Primary for a seat on the Bellefonte Borough Council representing the 3rd (or West) Ward.  There are three seats for this section of town with one seat being elected for a four-year term starting on January 1, 2016.

There are two people — myself and a 32-year incumbent — running on the Democratic ticket. There is no one running on the Republican ticket. So I am running both a regular primary campaign on the Democratic side and a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot.

Volunteers on both sides of the aisle are writing letters, door knocking, and making calls on my behalf.  Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for links to the letters to the editor that have so far appeared in the Centre Daily Times endorsing my campaign for Bellefonte Borough Council. Thanks everyone.

As part of the campaign, I was interviewed by C-NET, our local cable access TV network on April 25.  The following clips are from that interview broken down by question.

Question 1: Why are you running?

Question 2: How should Bellefonte Council deal with developing a town budget?

Question 3: How do you see Bellefonte dealing with affordable housing?

Question 4: Thoughts on the development of the Garman and Cadillac sites

FYI, the Garman and Cadillac buildings, aka “The Mews,” is the downtown development project.  This project will renovate the Cadillac Building (designed by Anna Wagner Keichline, Pennsylvania’s first female registered architect) and build a new building on the former site of the Garman Opera House and the Hotel DoDe into a set affordable housing units. There has been a lot of controversy about this project including how decisions were made in selecting the developer and how the community and historic preservation were ignored during the process.


Question 5: Courthouse v. Town

With legal issues surrounding the Courthouse, how do you raise the town above that? How do you let people know that Bellefonte is more than just the Courthouse and the people involved in it?


Question 6: Should Bellefonte become part of the Centre Region?

Centre County is divided into seven planning regions. The Centre Region is where State College and the Pennsylvania State University are located.  It is the population center of the county.  Bellefonte is part of the Nittany Valley Region.

Question 7: Economic Development of Bellefonte’s Downtown and the Waterfront Districts

Q8: Tell us about yourself

In answer to this question I talked about my community organizing and community policy background and how that qualifies me to serve as a member of the Bellefonte Borough Council.

AND NOW: Get Out and Vote!

So… if you live in Pennsylvania, remember to vote on Tuesday, May 19. Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

If you live in Bellefonte’s 3rd (West) Ward, please vote for Joanne Tosti-Vasey.  If you are a Democratic, I am number 2 on the Borough Council section of the Democratic ballot; please fill in the bubble next to my name on your ballot. If you are a Republican, please write in “Joanne Tosti-Vasey” in the Borough Council section of your ballot.

Help make a difference in your community. VOTE!

STATE COLLEGE: League of Women Voters’ Candidate Forum for May 2015 Primary

This is an article about the Centre County League of Women Voters’ Spring Primary Candidates’ Forum.  It was held on Wednesday April 29.  I was one of the candidates participating in the forum.  A larger portion of this article in the Centre Daily Times covers the race for Bellefonte Borough Council.  And you will see a couple of photos of myself debating my incumbent opponent.

STATE COLLEGE: Candidate forum including shines spotlight on upcoming primary |

The Sexism Is Everywhere, But Handling Hillary Clinton With Kid Gloves Isn’t Feminist; It’s Sexist

Erin Matson

No woman in the public eye symbolizes the tremendous change in opportunities for women more than Hillary Clinton. It is not in spite of this, but because of this, that she inspires passion and deep ambivalence. People love her, or people hate her. The media reports on and questions her style as if the entire credibility of constitutional democracy might rest on her cleavage, her hair, her pantsuits, her scrunchies, and now, her logo.

On substance, feminists are frequently told to judge her by the sexual mores of the man she married. Someone has yet to credibly explain how judging a woman by the actions of her partner, rather than her own actions, is feminist.

In the 2008 elections, the Democratic Party failed to treat Hillary with the respect she deserved. She was surrounded with calls to get out of the race while she was still ahead in the primary.

As one of my mentors…

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