March 16, 2021 (Philadelphia) — Today, Draw the Lines PA, a statewide campaign promoting fair, open, and transparent redistricting in Pennsylvania, applauded the move to certify the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC), the state entity charged with drawing new Pennsylvania state legislative districts. To mark the occasion, Draw the Lines PA released a video featuring David Thornburgh, son of former Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh, and Jane Leader Janeczek, daughter of former Democratic Governor George Leader, jointly calling on lawmakers to open the process to the public and avoid partisan gerrymandering of districts.
The four caucus-appointed members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission are charged with choosing the fifth member of the commission, who will serve as Chair of the LRC. The Pennsylvania Constitution gives these four members 45 days to select this individual. If they don’t come to a consensus, the State Supreme Court will make the selection. The Constitution dictates that this fifth member be a Pennsylvania citizen not holding elected office.
“This year’s redistricting process has the opportunity to make history. Never before has the fifth member and chair been chosen by the four members, or chosen in a public process,” said David Thornburgh, who serves as President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, the parent organization of Draw the Lines PA (DTL). “We know that the delay in Census data until September will create several challenges for timely redistricting, but we strongly support the idea proposed by caucus leaders today to move forward with certifying the Legislative Reapportionment Commission in advance. Even before they receive the new Census data, the Commission can agree on the values, priorities, and goals that should be expressed in the new maps. To do so requires taking public testimony, holding hearings, and reviewing maps already drawn by citizens through efforts like Draw the Lines.”
Jane Leader Janeczek added, “We call on the LRC to select the fifth member through an open application process so that everyday Pennsylvania citizens have the opportunity to serve. Drawing fair district lines can be a straightforward, fair, and accountable process when gerrymandering isn’t involved.”
The Committee of Seventy launched Draw the Lines PA in 2018. DTL is a civic education and engagement initiative that brings citizens into the process of drawing PA’s election maps. Through its public map drawing competitions, everyday Pennsylvanians have proven they are prepared to participate in a fair, transparent, and people-powered process. To date, DTL has engaged over 11,000 Pennsylvania voters and students in its programming. In five competitions, over 6,000 of them have worked together to complete over 1,300 congressional and legislative maps.
“Draw the Lines is more than a map-drawing competition. The process has demonstrated that thousands of Pennsylvanians want to work with the General Assembly to make sure there is plenty of public input, transparency, and ultimately fair, equitable maps,” said former Governor Mark Schweiker, who also co-chairs the Draw the Lines steering committee.
“We know trust in our public institutions is at a dangerously low point. Restoring that trust is a must right now. Let’s do this the old fashioned American way -- allowing voters to pick their legislators, instead of legislators picking their voters. We are encouraging legislative leaders to launch a public application process for the selection of the fifth member who will serve as Chair of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission,” said Schweiker. Draw the Lines has launched an online petition at https://drawthelinespa.org/petition asking the legislature to open the selection process of the fifth member to members of the public.
David Thornburgh chaired the 2019 bipartisan Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission established by Governor Tom Wolf. The Commission issued an extensive report (https://www.dos.pa.gov/VotingElections/Pages/Redistricting-Report-2019.aspx) that also can serve as a resource to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.