Pa. Redistricting officials unable to choose fifth member, now up to Pa. Supreme Court

This Week in Pennsylvania

FILE- In this Nov. 16, 2018, file photo William Marx points out one of the districts that crossed four counties as an image of the old congressional districts of Pennsylvania are projected on a wall in the classroom where he teaches civics in Pittsburgh. In Pennsylvania, the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court redrew the congressional map for the 2018 elections after striking down the previous Republican-drawn version as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Friday, Pa. Legislative Reapportionment Commission officials announced they were unable to agree on a fifth member for the redistricting effort in Pennsylvania.

As a result, the commissioners sent a letter to Chief Justice Max Baer, of the Pa. Supreme Court.

In the event that the four members are unable to choose a fifth, “fair and neutral arbiter” for the redistricting process in Pennsylvania within 45 days of certification, the decision is then put into the hands of the state Supreme Court.

This fifth member will also function as the Commission’s chair.

While the Reapportionment Commissioners were unable to choose a person for the “tie-breaker” role, they did interview many qualified, diverse candidates over the course of a month and a half.

In the letter to Justice Baer, the commissioners included recommendations regarding the qualities of a good fifth member and chair.

“The chair should be a fair and neutral arbiter of this process, essentially a baseball umpire
calling balls and strikes,” the commissioners said. “Simply put, a chair should possess the qualifications that would enable them to resolve disagreements in a fair and transparent manner.”

Additionally, according to the commissioners, the person should be distant from the political process.

“While running for public office should not disqualify someone to serve, a chair should be several
years removed from engaging in the political process. Similarly, a strong candidate should not
have been recently engaged in lobbying efforts at any level of government,” the letter stated.

In short, the fifth member must be disassociated with the political process to ensure personal agendas won’t hinder their ability to remain neutral in the redistricting effort.

The Pa. Supreme Court has 30 days to make a decision.

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