Our organizations, with a collective 250-years of experience fighting for good government in Pennsylvania, have long supported the vision of an open, transparent and fair redistricting process for the Commonwealth. Although the California-style commission featuring random selection of map drawers is a well-regarded model which we have supported, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of what constitutes an independent commission. What’s important is a system of checks and balances that meaningfully incorporates public input, guards against meddling and manipulation, and transfers the pen from elected officials to citizens. Such a process is necessary not only to support a functional and productive government, but to instill faith that our democracy is not rigged.
We believe Senate Bill 22 provides a strong framework for such an appointed independent citizens commission. But it should be strengthened with amendments proposed by Senator Folmer. These improvements would:
Prohibit lobbyists and staff of public officials from serving on the commission.
Require that commission nominees have been registered in the same political party or as an independent or third-party registrant for the prior three years.
Ensure that the commission will reasonably reflect the geographic and demographic diversity of the Commonwealth.
Eliminate the possible forfeiture of compensation by commission members. Personal financial means must not be a limitation in who can serve.
Create tight map-drawing criteria to prevent the unnecessary splitting of counties and municipalities. Any splits would have to be justified in writing.
Clarify backstop provisions to ensure strong public scrutiny and prevent partisan manipulation.
We support these amendments. With their passage and a favorable vote on Senate Bill 22, the citizens of Pennsylvania should know that their representatives hear them, government is responding, and real reform is possible. Our organizations believe this proposal reflects a good-faith effort by reformers and Senate leaders and, with the proposed amendments, will vigorously advocate for its passage.
Carol Kuniholm, Chair, Fair Districts PA
David Thornburgh, CEO, Committee of Seventy
Micah Sims, Executive Director, Common Cause PA
Suzanne Almeida, Executive Director, League of Women Voters PA