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HARRISBURG, May 9, 2017 – State lawmakers and over 100 citizens rallied today on the Capitol steps for redistricting reform legislation.
Calling the current system unfair and a harmful distortion of democracy, reform advocates called for creating an independent citizen’s commission to redraw Congressional and legislative district maps.
“It’s time to slay the gerrymander and give redistricting back to the people,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton). “Gerrymandering drains the competitiveness from our elections, stifles democracy and feeds the polarization that is rampant in Washington and Harrisburg. People, not politicians, should draw the lines.”
Sen. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) added that at one point Monroe County and its population of 128,000 people was carved up into six separate senate districts under a gerrymandering scheme.
Gerrymandering is defined as an attempt to establish a political advantage for a political party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan-advantaged districts.
The lawmakers were joined by members of Fair Districts PA, a non-partisan volunteer coalition of citizens who advocate for government and election reforms. The group supports two bipartisan redistricting reform bills: Senate Bill 22 (co-sponsored by Boscola and Scavello) and House Bill 722 (sponsored by Reps. Steve Samuelson (D-Northampton) and Eric Roe (R-Chester).
Both measures would establish and independent commission and require it to adhere to rational redistricting criteria, such as:
- Prohibit districts from being drawn to favor or discriminate against any individual;
- Use sound methodology in accordance with state and federal law when setting district boundaries;
- Ensure transparency in the process with meaningful opportunities for active public participation
While both bills have widespread support, Scavello urged the public to help give that “extra push to get this done.”
Samuelson added, “The current system is focused on party leaders and what works for them. Using a fair and open process, this commission will focus on what makes sense for people and our communities.”
Citing how numerous independent-minded former colleagues over the years were targeted and defeated due to unfair gerrymandering, Boscola said reform is a “personal” issue to her.
Both bills are currently under consideration in legislative committees. One of the bills would need to be enacted this session for the reforms to be in place for the 2020 reapportionment cycle.
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