Redistricting reformers in Pa. look outside the box for legislative options

A portion of the Pennsylvania legislative district map. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

A portion of the Pennsylvania legislative district map. (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

After a year of campaigning and months of legislative debate, it’s likely too late for state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment overhauling Pennsylvania’s redistricting process before the next map-redrawing begins in 2021.

Instead, advocates for change are exploring alternative options.

Critics of the map-drawing methods for congressional and state legislative districts have argued that state lawmakers have too much power over the processes — saying their involvement leads to political gerrymandering and incumbent protection. 

Despite progress this spring toward creating a redistricting commission comprised of citizen, the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a plan in time for the two-session amendment process to start.

But Carol Kuniholm with Fair Districts PA said the group is exploring alternate legal options to prepare an amendment.

If that fails, she said, lawmakers don’t need an amendment to change the congressional district-drawing process — or to make a number of smaller changes.

“You know, rules on having it be a public process, not being allowed to use partisan data, having to give reasons for splitting communities or municipalities or, particularly, for splitting counties,” she said.

Lawmakers return to Harrisburg from their summer break next month.

Kuniholm said the group won’t start lobbying in earnest until the new session starts in January — noting they’re hoping lawmakers who favor their ideas win midterm elections.

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