Fair Districts PA has been leading the movement to reform the way in which districts of the PA House and Senate and US Congress are drawn after each census. Pennsylvania has had the dubious fame of being the most gerrymandered state in the country, resulting in Democrats, the majority party among voters in the state, being the minority party in both houses in Harrisburg.
Many Dem office-holders and candidates, and some R’s, support the plan to take redistricting away from the politicians and give it to a citizens’ commission. Unfortunately, legislative leadership in Harrisburg has not yet allowed acceptable bills to advance. Maybe in 2019! This is not about political oneupmanship, but about reaffirming the right of the people to elect representatives of their choice and see them enact laws for the public benefit, such as fair education funding.
Here is where things stand now, in an excerpt from UPDATE: Alternatives, Action, Appreciation, by FDPA director Carol Kuniholm, July 24, 2018:
Our bills are dead for this session, but our work is far from over.
If you’ve followed our recent updates you know we did all we could to get a fair hearing and vote on a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission. Despite an amazing amount of good work by supporters, advocates and legislative allies, our bills were buried in legislative dysfunction and House leadership failure to negotiate consensus.
With few session days left, we will NOT be supporting any other legislation this year. Instead, we’ll be talking with experts, gathering ideas from supporters and legislators and defining priorities so we have a plan ready, and possibly legislation drafted, when the next session starts in January.
There are many possible alternatives.
All require research, discussion and a strategy for implementation. Here are some:
• Promote an independent citizens commission for congressional districts only (this wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment).
• Propose legislation to ensure transparency and public input for the processes currently in place, to constrain the current map-drawing process and to ensure maps drawn meet specific, enforceable standards.
• Use citizen mapping projects as a safeguard against distorted maps.
• Continue the effort to amend the PA Constitution to create a commission for both legislative and congressional districts, either to have in place for 2031 or looking for unexplored ways to have it in place by 2021.