Watchdogs hopeful Pa. redistricting process will be more fair and transparent

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania lawmakers are beginning the redistricting process, which has major implications for voters and who they will elect to Congress.

This happens every 10 years when the state gets new data from the U.S. Census.

On Thursday, July 22, a House committee held the first in a series of public hearings about the map-drawing process.

In the past, Pennsylvania has been criticized for having maps that are too gerrymandered, which means they heavily favor one party and don’t represent the voters.

However, this time, watchdogs like David Thornburgh with Committee of Seventy say there’s more of a political balance.

“The political balance of power is much more equal. You have a Democratic Governor, Democratic Supreme Court, Republican General Assembly,” Thornburgh said. “The limits have been narrowed in terms of the foolishness you can get away with.”

It’s part of the reason some are more hopeful that this time around the map will be more fair.

Khalif Ali with Common Cause PA says lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure that.

“They can avoid a lawsuit, they can avoid coming back and having to redraw the districts. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past essentially,” Ali said.

Advocates say they’re watching the process and so are the voters.

“The level of awareness, engagement, the ability because of technology’s advance for citizens to actually draw maps themselves is extraordinary. We’ve never seen that level of eyes on the process,” Thornburgh said.

They believe the key to doing this right is transparency and getting participation from Pennsylvanians.

“We can’t allow elected officials to choose who the voters will be. We get to choose who they will be and who will represent us,” Ali said.

There are 10 public hearings scheduled across the state so people can get involved.

“These are these overarching issues of democracy that will definitely impact what you’re seeing on a day to day basis. So we have to get you involved, we want to keep you informed,” Ali said.

“There is no such things as a perfect map. But like most good things that come out of the democratic process it represents a series of compromises and judgements,” Thornburgh said.

Pennsylvania is losing one of its congressional seats. It will drop from 18 to 17 because we are growing more slowly than in other states.

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