what Challenges do we face?
Gerrymandering: Still a Threat
The Democratic-controlled PA Supreme Court addressed only congressional districts for 2018 and 2020.
Gerrymandered state senate and house districts remain distorted in favor of Republicans.
2020 state elections will greatly impact 2021 congressional and state redistricting with impact for a decade.
The path to fair districts for the next decade is to capture control of the state senate and house in 2020.
Congressional redistricting is then done through the regular legislative process: a bill defining the district boundaries is passed by both the PA House and Senate and signed by the governor. The problem is, Pennsylvania law doesn’t mandate how congressional districts should be redrawn or what criteria should be applied to ensure new district boundaries are fair. Instead, the majority party can draw maps any way it pleases, and, depending who’s in the governor’s office, can end up with exclusive control over the result.
PA House and Senate districts are referred to as state legislative districts. Article II, Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution mandates that these districts be drawn by a five-member commission. Four of these are the majority and minority leaders of the PA House and Senate. These four then select a fifth member to serve as the commission chair. If the four cannot agree, then the PA Supreme Court appoints a chair.
This commission has exclusive authority to draw the maps. Article II, Section 16 of the Pennsylvania Constitution requires these districts “be composed of compact and contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable” and to avoid dividing a “county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward” unless absolutely necessary.
The legislature does not vote on the commission’s plans, and the governor has no power to sign or veto them—only a citizen can file a appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This gives party leaders enormous power over rank-and-file members of their respective caucuses: if a member proves to be too independent, they may be punished, usually by drawing them out of a “safe” district into one dominated by the other party. It also lets incumbent legislators draw their own districts—a clear conflict of interest from the start.
Some municipalities must also conduct redistricting if representation on their legislative bodies is done by district, as opposed to at-large representation, where all the members are elected by the entire voting population of the political entity.
Some local governing bodies have delegated redistricting to outside groups, but retain final authority to approve any redistricting plan.
Local redistricting is covered by Article IX, Section 11 of the PA Constitution, which states that within a year of the census being officially reported, “each municipality having a governing body not entirely elected at large shall be reapportioned by its governing body or as shall otherwise be provided by uniform law, into districts which shall be composed of compact and contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable, for the purpose of describing the districts for those not elected at large.”
Follow the link below to learn more about redistricting and its impact on Pennsylvania: