We endorse the work of Fair Districts PA and its affiliate, Fair-Districts Centre County, in advocating for non-partisan methods of redrawing legislative district lines. Our stance is that elections should represent the will of the electorate by providing voters with meaningful choices that are not manipulated by politicians.
The future number of elected representatives in Pennsylvania will be based on the on the 2020 U.S. census count, which could trigger the drawing of new districts before the next congressional and legislative elections.
In Pennsylvania, district lines are drawn by a Legislative Redistricting Commission composed of the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House (4) and one other person chosen by them. The Commission has the exclusive authority to draw the maps. If the leaders are unable to agree on the fifth person, the Supreme Court of PA appoints that person. This can mean that the resulting districts are gerrymandered in favor of one or the other political party.
Questionable methods used for re-districting result in gerrymandered districts, which enable candidates to choose their voters rather than giving the voters a real choice.
What Should Be Done
Fair Districts is pushing for an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that will change the way House and Senate districts are drawn. The amendment would form an eleven-member commission composed of non-politicians who would follow specific guidelines, such as drawing district lines that result in contiguous districts of about the same size without using political affiliation or voting data. The legislation required to change the constitution died in committee even though it had more bi-partisan support than any other bill in the past two legislative sessions.
Presently Fair Districts is supporting HB2638 and SB1242, bills that require strict guardrails and a transparent process for the political leaders who will make up four of the five members of the Legislative Redistricting Commission of 2021.
Sue Johnston, Representative, Fair Districts-Centre County