A large bipartisan group of Pennsylvania state House and Senate members launched a major effort today to change Pennsylvania’s system for redistricting. The process currently utilized by the Keystone State has created some of the most gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts in the nation. “This distortion of representative government causes problems that leach throughout the governing process, diminishes citizens’ faith in the value of elections, and damages our communities’ access to fair and effective representation in Harrisburg and Washington” said Common Cause/PA executive director Barry Kauffman.
Speaking on behalf of the Fair Districts PA coalition (see FairDistrictsPA.com), Kauffman, accompanied by partners from the PA League of Women Voters, said the coalition “enthusiastically endorses SB-484 and HB-1835" (by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Bethlehem; and Reps. David Parker, R-Monroe County and Mary Jo Daley, D-Narberth respectively). These bills are designed to fix the serious problems in Pennsylvania’s redistricting system. They would create an independent Citizens Commission that would operate in an open and impartial manner, in order to restore fair and competitive elections.
Kauffman noted that the way Pennsylvania does redistricting “lies at the heart of many government problems.” It makes the primary election the real election in most parts of the state, and thereby effectively disenfranchises all voters who are not members of the majority party in any given district. By designing districts virtually guaranteed to be won by one party, the general election is usually determined before the first voter casts a vote; and causes candidates to pander to the most extreme wings of their parties. Furthermore, with the voters marginalized, representatives can focus more of their efforts on the lobbyists and special interests that fund their campaigns.
"The current system used for the decennial redrawing of congressional and legislative district boundaries has contributed to the lack of civility; contributed to the inability to reach reasonable compromises; contributed to the gridlock in the current state budget crisis; and reduced the accountability” of representatives to the citizens said Kauffman.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.