Hoping for reform in who draws new district lines

    States across the country are turning to independent commissions and other non-partisan measures, to draw new boundary lines for congressional and state legislative districts.
    New Jersey uses politically balanced panels with tie breakers. In Delaware, the Legislature draws the lines.

    Reformers waiting for an overhaul of the redistricting process in Pennsylvania, aren’t holding their breath. Barry Kauffman is the Executive Director of the watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania.

    “History tells us it’s going to be a long hard fight,” Kauffman said, “because it does require a constitutional amendment and it does require the people in power to give up some of their power, to the people.”

    Kauffman said Pennsylvania needs to do more to separate the boundary-drawing process from politics.

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    “The Congressional redistricting is done by the regular legislative process: a bill is passed and a statute is created,” Kauffman explained. “For state legislative seats however there is this Commission under article two of the state constitution which creates a five member Commission: two from each party to be appointed by the legislative leaders and a fifth person appointed by those four.”

    Kauffman said the current system in Pennsylvania is an insider’s game that can play out on the legislative front.

    “We tend to elect the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans and in those situations the party loyal tend to perpetuate themselves and when they get elected to the legislature,”

    Kauffman said. “That makes it much harder to compromise because the most extreme wing of the parties tend to prevail in elections.”

    Kauffman said with the help of powerful new computer programs, more and more, legislators are selecting their voters. And there is more at stake this year as Pennsylvania loses one congressional seat.

    Click here to try drawing your own political district map.  

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