Senate Bill 22 Only a Half Measure to Fix Gerrymandering

Statement of Micah Sims, Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director

On Tuesday, May 22nd the Senate State Government Committee took a small step in the right direction toward fixing our broken redistricting process, but there is much more work to be done. Committee Chairs Mike Folmer, Anthony Williams and their colleagues responded to the outcry of Senator Lisa Boscola, concerned citizens, and reformers to fix the dysfunctional way Pennsylvania handles the drawing of congressional and legislative districts.

While it was refreshing to see elected officials responding to concerns instead of ignoring them, their measure needs to go further. The amended bill brings transparency, citizen involvement, public testimony, and safeguards to ensure a fair process. However, there are also significant shortcomings. For example, the bill allows a wide range of political insiders to serve on the commission and lacks language requiring that the commission is representative of Pennsylvania’s diversity. This constitutional amendment could be the law of the land for decades, so the time to make these essential improvements is now.

Common Cause Pennsylvania will continue to work, as we have for the past thirty years, for a constitutional amendment that will reform redistricting and eliminate partisan gerrymandering. We believe the best answer is the formation of an independent citizens redistricting commission, not an appointed commission in which legislators handpick members. As this bill proceeds, Common Cause will monitor and alert citizens if this legislation fails to meet the standards of fairness and transparency that the public demands. We must continue to dialogue and work for the right solution. It’s not time to celebrate or take a victory lap, but time to work even harder.

Lastly, Common Cause Pennsylvania is asking our governor, state elected officials, reform organizations and grassroots movements to continue to work together to develop an historical redistricting amendment.