Statement of Micah Sims, Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Directo
On Tuesday, April 9th the Senate State Government Committee will vote on Senate Bill 22, the same constitutional amendment from Spring 2018 which established a politician-appointed commission to draw legislative and congressional district lines. While we appreciate the continued commitment of Committee Chairs Mike Folmer, Anthony Williams and their colleagues as well as bill sponsor Senator Lisa Boscola to reforming the Pennsylvania redistricting process, as written, this bill is insufficient to address the concerns of Pennsylvanians who are tired of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse when it comes to drawing fair and representative districts.
While it is refreshing to see elected officials responding to concerns instead of ignoring them, their measure needs to go further. For example, the bill grants elected officials the power to appoint commissioners, allows family members of elected or appointed officials to serve on the commission, and fails to include necessary criteria for drawing districts including compliance with the Voting Rights Act, the consideration of racial equity, and the protection of communities of interest. This constitutional amendment could be the law of the land for decades, so the time to make these essential improvements is now. Unless and until the bill meets the threshold for meaningful reform, Common Cause urges a NO vote on Senate Bill 22.
Common Cause Pennsylvania will continue to work, as we have for the past thirty years, for commonsense reforms that will reform redistricting and eliminate partisan gerrymandering. We believe the best answer is the formation of an independent citizens redistricting commission with robust provisions for transparency and public input and with clear criteria for map drawing that explicitly protects the interests of communities of color and upholds the value of racial equity, not a politician-appointed commission in which legislators handpick the commissioners who will draw their districts. As this bill proceeds, Common Cause will monitor and alert citizens if this legislation continues to fail to meet the standards of fairness and transparency that the public demands. This is an ongoing conversation and we are committed to working with legislators and advocates for the right solution for Pennsylvania.
During the committee meeting on Tuesday, we will be supporting SB178.