Common Cause PA Urges Pennsylvania Supreme Court to use Transparent Process to Select Chair of Legislative Reapportionment Commission

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Today the four sitting members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) — Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, and House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-191, Philadelphia) have announced they have not come to consensus on the fifth member, who would have served as Chair of the LRC

For the first time in Pennsylvania’s history, the LRC created an open application process for everyday Pennsylvanians interested in serving as the Chairperson of the commission. The LRC received more than 60 applications and held interviews spanning two days. 

Earlier this week, Common Cause Pennsylvania sent a letter to the Caucus leaders thanking them for opening the application process to all interested Pennsylvanians and asking that they continue the selection process in the spirit of openness and transparency.  

“The level of transparency we asked for was not met, and was far short of the open process we desperately need. This includes, but is not limited to, access to the names and qualifications of each applicant,” said Khalif Ali, Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania

“We are disappointed that the commission was unable to put partisan politics aside and make a historic selection in this process. Pennsylvanians deserve a redistricting process that puts our communities, our values, and our experiences at the center,” Ali added. 

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania must now make the selection for the committee no later than May 30, 2021. Common Cause Pennsylvania now makes the same request of the Supreme Court that we did of the sitting members of the commission, in the selection process for the fifth and final member. We encourage the Supreme Court take into account the following factors in appointing the chair:

  1. Does the person have an understanding of the historical racial, ethnic, and socio-economic implications of redistricting in Pennsylvania and, explicitly how it has been used to disadvantage communities of color in our state? 
  2. Does the person have the capacity, interest, and open-mindedness to listen and take testimony from individuals and organizations from varying perspectives across Pennsylvania? 
  3. Does the person come from a background, including race, ethnicity, primary language, sexual orientation, gender identity or other, that have traditionally been excluded from the redistricting process? 
  4.  Does the person have skills and/or experience in building bridges and achieving compromise and/or having difficult conversations or negotiations?
  5. Does the person have capacity to understand the nuances of the redistricting process in Pennsylvania, including willingness to rely on neutral experts on issues such as the Voting Rights Act?  

“Again, Pennsylvanians are being forced to watch the process unfold from the outside. It’s our hope that the selection process moves forward, transparently and with a focus on ensuring that voters in every legislative district have an equal opportunity to pick their candidate, not the other way around,” Ali said.