The new report of the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission makes thoughtful, constructive proposals for changing the way Pennsylvania draws district lines. The Public Interest Law Center believes the report provides an excellent road map for much-needed reform.
The Commonwealth’s current redistricting processes are run by politicians and have repeatedly resulted in maps that violate constitutional requirements in attempts to gain partisan advantage or entrench incumbents. When the Legislative Reapportionment Commission drew new state senate and state house maps in 2011, it violated the state constitution by needlessly splitting municipalities across multiple districts. So the Law Center sued on behalf of Amanda Holt, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the original maps. Ms. Holt, a Republican county commissioner in Leigh County, served on the Redistricting Reform Commission.
A reformed map-making process can move Pennsylvania away from maps that thwart the will of the voters
And after the most recent Census, the state legislature drew an outlandish congressional district map to maximize one party’s political advantage. The Law Center sued on behalf of 18 voters and the League of Women Voters and won a historic, first-in-the-nation victory against partisan gerrymandering.
A reformed map-making process can move Pennsylvania away from maps that thwart the will of the voters. States across the country are adopting systems that empower citizens, not politicians, to draw district lines. A well-designed independent redistricting process will generate maps that are fair to voters, that promote competitive races, and that ensure a voice for communities that could otherwise be shut out. The Redistricting Reform Commission’s recommendations point the Commonwealth in exactly that direction.