Independent Redistricting Reform Gets Huge Momentum in Pennsylvania

Fair Districts PA has proposed a constitutional amendment that would change the way electoral districts are drawn after the decennial census by establishing an independent citizens commission.

According to its website, Fair Districts PA “is a coalition of citizens and organizations who believe that in American democracy, elections should represent the will of all the people, not just the politicians, and should provide citizens with meaningful choices in electing representatives.”

Endorsing organizations include the League of Women Voters Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Independents, Represent.us Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter, Pennsylvanians for Fair Elections, and many more. See a complete list here

According to its website, Fair Districts PA has 5 standards for redistricting reform:

  • Adhere to all Constitution and Voting Rights Act requirements.
  • Make all districts as equal in population as possible within an established minimal range of deviation.
  • Respect political subdivisions and communities of interest.
  • Encourage geographical compactness and respect for natural geographical features and barriers.
  • Prohibit districts from being drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against a political party or candidate.

And 4 priorities for redistricting reform:

  • Assign the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners, nor members of their immediate families, may be government or political party officials.
  • Ensure the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation.
  • Conduct redistricting once each decade, following the census, with a strict timeline for completion.
  • Address other causes of districting unfairness.

In the video above, Fair District PA’s Carol Kuniholm expressed the urgent need for the constitutional amendment to pass now in the 2017-2018 session.

“This is a constitutional amendment that has to go through two sessions, so it has to pass the 2017-2018 session, and again in the 2019-2020 session to go to referendum in 2020. So it has to pass now. Our pitch is that if it does not pass now it’s another whole decade before we can fix this and we can’t afford that; every decade it has gotten worse.” – Carol Kuniholm of Fair District PA

Because of the requirements to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, the biggest obstacle reformers face right now is time.

However, the amendment appears to be gaining significant traction. According to the video, nearly half of the Pennsylvania House has signed on as co-sponsors to the redistricting reform, success not seen with previous efforts.

“People feel very disenfranchised. They feel like, in our last election 86% of our legislative districts had no opposition in the primary. Fifty percent had no opposition in the general election. When people look at the lack of choice the say, ‘something is wrong,'” said Kuniholm.

Photo Credit: Mandritoiu / shutterstock.com