Letter to PA legislator: Doesn’t the deciding vote matter?

Fair Districts PA Chair Carol Kuniholm is writing a letter a week to all PA legislators, and we are publishing those letters here. Please read Carol’s letter and then take a moment to write one of your own to your state representative and senator. For contact information, click here

Dear PA legislators,

The more we learn the more concerned we are. We’ve looked at distorted maps, studied the secretive processes and logged hundreds of conversations with legislators in district and Harrisburg offices, town hall meetings and forums.

At times we hear that redistricting reform is a “partisan” issue. Too often, we hear this comment from individuals who do not understand how our state legislative districts are drawn. We’re alarmed at how few of our state representatives seem to understand the Legislative Reapportionment Commission: five guys drawing the maps for all house and senate districts, a process put in place by the 1967-68 PA Constitutional Convention, not by our founders, as we are sometimes told.

Four members of the commission are among the most invested party leaders in the legislature (majority and minority leaders from each house or their proxies).

The deciding vote, if the four can’t agree on a fifth is chosen by the majority of the PA Supreme Court. That court currently has a Democratic majority.

There is NO approval vote by the General Assembly, no possibility of veto by the governor. The only recourse is appeal to the same court that chose the deciding vote. The only remedy is to have that same commission tweak the map a little. Both happened in 2011-2012. The resulting remedial maps are still the most gerrymandered legislative maps in the country.

We know there are legislators on both sides who would prefer to leave the LRC in place. We understand why Democratic leadership might prefer that, since they’ll have a chance to redress grievances accumulated across two decades of being drawn into an irrelevant minority.

We also understand why a few Republican leaders might prefer the LRC, since even in a minority, they maintain control over colleagues by at least having a seat at the table.

We don’t understand at all the majority of Republicans who continue to support a process guaranteed to draw some of them off the map and push others into the same irrelevant minority status long inflicted on Democratic colleagues. It’s simple math: Democrats will have the deciding vote on the LRC unless the process changes. Wouldn’t it make sense to fix this before the inevitable happens?

We believe an independent, transparent redistricting process would help restore confidence in our elections and make it more possible for you to serve and represent your constituents. We are doing all we can to build trust and accountability, to help citizens understand the process and engage in constructive ways. We need your help to do that. Please take time to understand the current realities, to study our proposed bills, and to listen to your constituents’ concerns.

Thank you to all who HAVE cosponsored and for your affirmation that maps matter. We need your help!

Time is running short. We need action on HB 22/23 and SB 1022/1023 before the end of June. We will NOT suffer through another decade of gerrymandered voting districts. We want votes on our bills soon and an independent commission in place in time for the 2021 redistricting cycle.


Carol Kuniholm Fair Districts PA Chair

PS: You may be interested in the Redistricting chapter from the CATO Handbook for Policymakers.

PPS: In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a simple explainer of the two bills we’re asking you to support.