The Committee of Seventy welcomes Governor Wolf’s support of several proposals that would help ensure representative and accountable government in Pennsylvania. Campaign finance and redistricting reform, in particular, are urgently needed to prevent special interests from exerting undue influence on the political process and to begin rebuilding trust in our democracy.
Seventy has long supported redistricting reform and has been an outspoken voice on this issue. Recent court rulings did nothing to fix the state’s legislative maps nor the flawed process that produced them. And although the previous congressional maps deserved to be struck down, the process to create new ones lacked transparency, public input or explanation for the end result.
An independent commission of citizens to create future electoral maps is a step in that direction. Empowering citizens across the Commonwealth with the digital tools to produce their own maps through our Draw the Lines initiative will democratize the process further. It is time to open up the process to give voters greater voice in determining how they should be represented.
With regard to voting procedures, Seventy strongly encourages serious discussion around the most antiquated parts of Pennsylvania’s 1937 Election Code. Modernizing the steps to apply and submit absentee ballots should be at the top of the list. Removing unnecessarily restrictive barriers to voting is of vital importance to ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot.
Curtailing the role of money in politics through limits on contributions to candidates and stronger reporting requirements are also much needed and welcomed reforms in our state. Even in the super PAC era, we should consider more rules on the dollars that seek to influence elections, not less. Philadelphia’s strict contribution limits and oversight by a proactive Board of Ethics have produced a seachange in the city’s electoral politics over the past decade. Pennsylvania could see the same.
Seventy looks forward to a serious discussion around proposals to increase voter participation, secure our elections and ensure the government’s accountability to the people of the Commonwealth. We encourage the Governor and General Assembly to continue thoughtful deliberation of these reforms in pursuit of the highest ethical standards in our government.
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The Committee of Seventy is an independent nonprofit advocate for better politics and better government in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information, see www.seventy.org.