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Who Really Decides Legislative Districting?

Who Really Decides Legislative Districting?

One year from now legislative redistricting begins anew.

The current process is this: the legislative leaders of both major parties choose two representatives to decide on maps. The General Assembly is not involved, nor are they consulted about the maps. Control of the process is constrained and not transparent, a perfect set-up for corruption.

These four Legislative Reapportionment Committee (LRC) members are supposed to agree on a fifth tiebreaker.  For decades, however, in practice, they cannot agree and therefore the State Supreme Court chooses a fifth. Current members of the PA Supreme Court are majority Democrats. In the last redistricting cycle in 2011-12, Republicans had the majority on the LRC.

Legislative Reapportionment Committee

What this means is that without redistricting reform, we will have partisan gerrymandering again, this time favoring Democrats for a decade. Republicans who claimed redistricting reform was a liberal plot have always been wrong or intentionally misleading.

Insisting on and ensuring compliance with the PA constitution has always been a deeply conservative notion dismissed by the leadership on the right as so much liberalism. The truth is a more painful admission: this has always been about entrenched power.

Voters understood. Two-thirds of registered voters of both parties in PA support redistricting reform because they do not like control of their votes by drawing districts that favor incumbents. They prefer that districts be drawn to amplify their voices rather than preserve power for the parties.

The PA map showing the districts of the Reapportionment Commission members should strike the reader for what they are: unrepresentative of voters in the entire state. They are not, as has been claimed by obfuscating legislators, taking into account the voices of legislators (and therefore voters) from around the state.

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Currently, House Bills 22 & 23 and matching Senate Bills 1022 & 1023 have the most cosponsors of any bills in the PA legislature. The bills have not been released from the State Government Committee to be brought to the Floor for a vote.

Voters must demand their legislators push for a vote on these bills. If the bills do not pass, at least we will know who wants partisan gerrymandering to stay in place.

Call, write, visit your legislator’s office to insist these bills be brought to the Floor for a vote. Visit Know Before You Vote on to see what your legislator thinks of redistricting reform. Legislators need to think about the consequences of no action.

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