PA Voting Rights Advocates Support Fair Districts Amendment

Today, Pennsylvania state Representatives Steve Samuelson and Mark Gillen introduced the bipartisan Fair Districts Amendment (HB 1776), legislation that would create an 11-member Independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission to replace the existing Legislative Reapportionment Commission. 

The Pennsylvania Redistricting Coalition, which includes Common Cause Pennsylvania, Fair Districts PA, The League of Women Voters of PA, the Committee of 70, and Pennsylvania Voice, supports this amendment and urges lawmakers to support its passage.

“For the future of our Commonwealth, we must take action to ensure that our districts are drawn transparently, fairly, and in a way that is representative of the people of Pennsylvania,” said Philip Hensley-Robin, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “This bill is an opportunity to take the power to draw district lines away from political insiders, and give it to ordinary citizens who represent the diversity of our Commonwealth. Finally, district lines will be drawn to ensure voters can pick their politicians, rather than allowing politicians to pick their voters.” 

The Fair Districts Amendment will implement common sense reforms that will prevent reckless partisan gerrymandering and improve Pennsylvania’s redistricting process. These reforms include an independent redistricting commission responsible for redrawing Congressional, State House, and State Senate maps. 

If passed, House and Senate district lines would be drawn by a randomly selected group of pre-qualified voters from both major political parties, plus independents and third-party members. A final redistricting plan would require the approval of at least seven out of eleven commission members, including at least two members of each party and two independent or third-party members. The Independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission would also be responsible for congressional redistricting.

In a 50-state redistricting report released by CHARGE, Pennsylvania earned a C+. The report found Pennsylvania’s most recent line-drawing process for senate and state house districts was more transparent, open, and responsive than prior cycles. But the process was still fundamentally flawed, and without reform, future redistricting cycles may return to the partisan norm of past decades.

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

Independent, citizen-led redistricting commissions are widely acknowledged as a best practice from coast to coast for ensuring fair maps.