50 State Report: Pennsylvania Earns Low Grade for Redistricting from Common Cause

Today, Common Cause, the leading national anti-gerrymandering group, published a report [LINK] grading the redistricting process in all 50 states from the view of the voting rights community, including good government and civil rights activists and community leaders. 

Pennsylvania earned a C+. The report found Pennsylvania’s line-drawing process for its senate and state house were more transparent, open, and responsive than prior cycles, with far more opportunities for civic engagement from community members, coalitions, and advocacy groups. 

In the state legislature-led redistricting of congressional lines, however, the report notes that advocates experienced a redistricting process that was less transparent and less responsive to public input, and ultimately required the state supreme court to step in and implement a map after an impasse between the legislature and the governor. 

“After a close look at all 50 states, this report shows more community voices produce better maps,” said Dan Vicuña, Common Cause national redistricting director. “When everyone can meaningfully participate and have their input reflected in the final maps, that’s how we achieve fair elections voters can trust. We found voting districts that prioritize community interests are the gateway to elections that lead to strong schools, a fair economy, and affordable healthcare.” 

Common Cause graded each state for its state level redistricting. In cases where advocates provided data, states received a second grade for their local redistricting process. Each interview and survey asked participants about the accessibility of the redistricting process, the role of community groups to advocate for fair districts, the efficacy and levels of funding of existing organizing efforts, and the involvement of communities of interest. 

“The Legislative Reapportionment Commission led a process that was far more transparent, fair, and representative of the people of Pennsylvania than the drawing of congressional districts that the legislature led in 2011,” said Christina Hartman, advisory board chair for Common Cause Pennsylvania. “But we still have work to do to ensure that our next congressional redistricting cycle is cooperative and reflective of the feedback given by community leaders.” 

Common Cause found the most powerful reform is independent, citizen-led commissions where voters — rather than elected officials — administer the process and hold the power of the pen to draw maps. Independent commissioners were found to be more interested in fair representation and community input — rather than electability or party control. 

States received grades based on several factors related to the redistricting process and mapping outcomes. These include transparency, opportunities for public input, willingness of decision makers to draw districts based on that input, adhering to nonpartisanship, empowerment of communities of color, and policy choices such as rejecting prison gerrymandering.

The report was authored by Common Cause, Fair Count, State Voices, and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).  

The report was published in collaboration with the Coalition Hub for Advancing Redistricting and Grassroots Engagement (CHARGE), which includes Common Cause, Fair Count, League of Women Voters, Mia Familia Vota, NAACP, NCAI, State Voices, APIAVote, and the Center for Popular Democracy. 

To view the report online, click here. [http://chargereportcard.org/]