The Committee of Seventy is gratified that the federal judiciary has let stand the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling tossing out the state’s 2011 congressional map.
The process that got us to this point was messy, at times even ugly. Nothing about it was designed to earn the public’s trust.
Still, the new map which will now be used in the 2018 elections offers clear improvements to the grotesquely distorted one it replaced. It is more compact and limits county splits. It also produces fewer “wasted votes,” which occur in districts where voters know before any ballots are cast that their individual choices will have no impact on outcomes, because, in fact, the map dictates the outcomes.
That said, the Committee of Seventy urges everyone to remember that these court decisions only fix one bad map, not the underlying redistricting process that has burdened Pennsylvania voters with bad map after bad map, for both state and federal elections.
Much work remains to be done to give Pennsylvania voters the open, orderly, people-driven redistricting process they deserve. The courts have provided a necessary foundation for reform, but their rulings are far from sufficient.
It is important to remember that this new congressional map will endure only for two elections; it will need to be redrawn after the 2020 Census, when Pennsylvania will lose at least one congressional seat. Recall also that these rulings did nothing to fix either the state’s legislative maps or the deeply flawed process that produced them.
Leaving the job of redistricting solely to political operatives is a proven failure. It’s time to open up the process to give voters a greater voice in determining how they should be represented. That’s the only way we can create a process that citizens can trust to produce common sense political maps.