The Governor’s Reform Commission released a statement and report with recommendations to improve the process of creating legislative district boundaries, completing the work described by Governor Wolf in an executive order last fall “to explore ways Pennsylvania could curb gerrymandering and make redistricting fairer and nonpartisan.”
“‘This report is a product of the most extensive public conversation ever held with Pennsylvania citizens about the issue of redistricting,’ said David Thornburgh, commission chairman and president and CEO of the non-profit Committee of Seventy. ‘What did we hear? That Pennsylvanians are hungry for change, and for a less partisan, more transparent, and more responsive process for drawing election maps.’ “The commission is recommending the creation of an 11-member citizens commission to develop redistricting maps that would be submitted to legislators for approval. Republican and Democratic legislative leaders would each appoint five members, including two from the opposing political party. The governor would appoint the 11th member, a non-voting chairperson. To further reduce partisanship on the commission, anyone who has held an elected federal, state or judicial office, or has been employed in support of such a public official, or has registered as a lobbyist, would be ineligible to be a commission member.
“Under this recommended model, the commission would hold public meetings and solicit online feedback across the commonwealth to gather comments before creating five maps that comply with the state constitution and have boundaries that are compact, contiguous and minimize division of counties and municipalities. The maps must also adequately reflect the interests of racial minorities. The commission would then hold a second round of public meetings to get comments on the maps and make the data available to the public. Three maps would be provided to the legislature or a bipartisan body like the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which would choose one map without changes. Pennsylvania’s next redistricting process will occur in 2021, following the 2020 census. The commission’s report is available here.”
Fair Districts PA considers the work of the commission a valuable addition to the ongoing conversation about how gerrymandering has harmed our democracy. It confirms what we have seen in meetings across the state: Pennsylvania voters do not trust legislators to draw district lines and are overwhelmingly in support of a citizens redistricting commission to draw congressional and legislative district lines through a fair and open process.
We agree with the commission’s assertion that “any model proposed for Pennsylvania should feel true to the Commonwealth’s distinctive history, culture, and sense of community.” We also affirm the importance of public input and transparency and commend the commission on their own work to provide opportunity for public input in the Governor’s commission process. Fair Districts PA supporters turned out in large numbers at every one of those meetings, sharing concerns about gerrymandering and the need for redistricting reform.
We thank Governor Wolf and each member of the Reform Commission for their commitment to a fair, transparent redistricting process and ask the General Assembly to do their part in enacting a reform that restores trust in our legislative elections.