Redistricting Kicks Off in Pennsylvania

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Common Cause Pennsylvania calls on Reapportionment Commission to “conduct their work in a fair, transparent, impartial manner and to listen to communities – not just their peers in the Legislature”

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus announced four members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which is tasked with redrawing district lines for the Pennsylvania House and Senate after the 2020 Census.

The Commission members named yesterday are: majority leaders of the Senate and House, Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin); and minority leaders of the Senate and House, Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia). Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Commission must name a fifth person who will serve as its Chair within 45 days. If they fail to do so, the appointment falls to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Commission is to prepare and file a preliminary reapportionment plan within 90 days of the time Census 2020 data is made available. The Census Bureau expects to deliver data to all states by September 30, 2021.

Statement of Khalif Ali, Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania 

The announcement of appointments to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) means we have officially kicked off the redistricting process here in Pennsylvania.

We welcome the timely formation of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission and appreciate that the LRC has given itself adequate time to take public comments and hear directly from communities about where they are located and how best to protect them in drawing maps. For too long, the process of redistricting has been done behind closed doors to the detriment of Pennsylvania’s communities – particularly communities of color.

The legislature has fallen short on redistricting reform. Self-interested elected legislators are still drawing their own district maps. However, this does not mean they get a free pass. We are calling on the members of the LRC to conduct their work in a fair, transparent, impartial manner and to listen to communities – not just their peers in the Legislature – in crafting House and Senate district maps.

Given the adjusted schedule for census data delivery and the expected September 30, 2021 Release Date, we call on the LRC to use this as an opportunity to hold extensive hearings with a greater focus on community engagement in the spring and summer leading up to the Census Data release. This is essential to ensure that when maps are drafted, they are fully representative of the diverse communities that make up our state.

Specifically, we call on the LRC to:
•    hold public hearings across the state at a variety of times during the day to ensure working people and people with family care responsibilities can fully participate;
•    use livestream and virtual meeting technology to ensure that people who are unable or unwilling to attend meetings in-person are still able to participate;
•    provide multiple avenues for the public to weigh in both before and after draft maps are produced;
•    ensure all relevant materials are translated into a variety of the most-spoken languages in Pennsylvania; and
•    ensure all meetings are recorded, and all recordings, testimony and other materials are archived on a publicly accessible webpage.

Finally, we would like to recognize the historic membership of Representative Joanna McClinton and Senator Kim Ward on the LRC.  Sen. Ward and Rep. McClinton are the first women and Rep. McClinton is the first person of color to sit on the LRC since its formation in 1970.