Every ten years, states redraw their legislative districts based on new census data. And in Pennsylvania, that invariably means both parties trying to leverage the process to get a partisan advantage.
It’s called gerrymandering. And under current state law, it’s entrenched.
The next redistricting process begins in 2020. And already, activists are out in force trying make the process fairer.
Under the state constitution, the right to redraw state house and senate districts — as well as US congressional districts — lies with politicians.
Essentially, the party that controls the legislature and state Supreme Court has more power in redrawing boundaries, so they can skew districts in their favor. Republicans successfully did so after the 2010 reapportionment.
Diana Dakey, a volunteer speaker with nonpartisan group Fair Districts PA, likens the constant tug-of-war over district control to “political football.”
“It’s like politics is some professional sports game, and every ten years the spoils that will go to that one winner are the ability to control politics for ten years,” she said at a talk to the Gettysburg-Area Democracy for America group Wednesday night.
Fair Districts PA is pushing to change that by amending the constitution to create an independent citizens’ commission, which would add a measure of impartiality to the process.
Dakey said it should be a no-brainer for politicians to get on-board.
“If I were a legislator, I would want to have an independent commission fairly drawing districts, rather than leaving the process up to the manipulations of partisan politics,” she said.
Two amendment bills are in their infancy in the House and Senate.
So far, they appear to have some bipartisan support, but they still have a long way to go and just over a year to get to the finish line.