House State Government Committee Considers Redistricting Reform

The PA House State Government Committee held an informational meeting yesterday on HB 1835.

HB 1835 is one of the bills Fair Districts PA has been supporting through our petition and legislative interviews.

Rep. David Parker, (R-Monroe), prime sponsor of the legislation, described his home county as “the poster child for the problems associated with our system of legislative redistricting.” In the 2002 redistricting, his county was split among six Pennsylvania Senate districts. “Not one of the senators lived in Monroe County and not one needed a Monroe County vote to win or keep their seat.” Parker explained the way an independent commission would work and how commissioners would be selected.

Carol Kuniholm, co-chair or Fair Districts PA, made reference to the international Election Integrity Project’s assessment that the greatest threat to the integrity of elections is partisan redistricting that permits politicians to create their own district lines. She explained that while gerrymandering is not new in the U.S., “new mapping and data mining technology make it possible for legislators to carve our state into more and more precisely determined districts, effectively shutting voters out of the process and making accountable government less and less possible.”

Vince DiFilippo, Republican chairman of the Cumberland County Commissioners, described his commission’s unanimous resolution in support of an amendment to the PA Constitution to create an independent citizens’ redistricting commission: “We believe the creation of a truly independent citizens’ redistricting commission devoid of political motivation or partisanship will help to ensure a fair and accurate legislative redistricting and congressional reapportionment process.”

Rep. Daley, co-sponsor of HB 1835, spoke about her own experience with congressional redistricting in her area of Montgomery County, and the sense that she and others of her community were pulled from one district into another in ways that served the needs of politicians rather than of voters.

Some committee members expressed support, asked probing questions and agreed that “the current system doesn’t work very well.” Committee leaders suggested that the current system provides “accountability” that would be missing in an independent commission. Detailed reports are available through Pennsylvania Legislative Service and Capitalwire subscription services.