Statement from David Thornburgh
President and CEO of The Committee of Seventy And Chair of Draw The Lines PA
July 13, 2021
Members of the General Assembly:
The Committee of Seventy applauds the initial steps announced yesterday by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, House State Government Committee Chair Seth Grove, and Representative Wendi Thomas in moving towards an open, transparent, and participatory congressional redistricting process. Senate State Government Committee Chair David Argall is organizing similar steps in his committee, including public hearings before Census data becomes available. These moves in both chambers of the General Assembly towards transparency are consistent with earlier calls by the Committee of Seventy and Draw the Lines PA. Starting the public engagement process this early is particularly welcome news.
Draw the Lines PA (DTL) stands ready to partner with Sen. Argall and Rep. Grove, and their committee counterparts, Sen. Sharif Street and Rep. Margo Davidson, in making sure Pennsylvanians have a seat at the redistricting table. It is our hope that additional public hearings will be held once the General Assembly produces a map, well before any final vote is taken. Amid unprecedented public attention, scrutiny, and concern around political mapmaking, guaranteeing the utmost transparency will be essential to creating districts that Pennsylvanians can trust.
To help engage as many Pennsylvanians in the process as possible, we are excited to launch the final phase of Draw the Lines PA, a statewide citizen-mapping initiative of the Committee of Seventy. Over the course of this project, Pennsylvanians hailing from 40 of our 67 counties engaged in competitions to draw over 1,500 congressional maps.
Anticipating the release of redistricting data by the U.S. Bureau in mid-August, numerous veterans of these competitions comprising a Citizens Map Corps are preparing to draft 17-district congressional mapping plans conforming to current state and federal law. Draw the Lines will also soon release a Pennsylvania Citizens’ Map that strives to represent the collective work of the thousands of Pennsylvanians who have mapped in the five DTL public mapping competitions held since 2018. We believe these Map Corps members and the aggregate Pennsylvania Citizens’ Map will be immensely helpful to your work, beginning immediately with the initial schedule of pre-data, pre-map public hearings.
As the mappers will attest, to have a truly transparent and trustworthy process, it will be imperative that Pennsylvanians have a meaningful opportunity to provide feedback on preliminary map(s) drafted in this body, and that proposed maps be accompanied by a narrative or story that explains how the districts adhere to law and, to the extent possible, incorporate public input. In other words, Pennsylvanians must have a chance to comment on the product before it goes to market.
We look forward to working with you.
David Thornburgh Committee of Seventy, President and CEO Draw the Lines PA, Chair
The Committee of Seventy is a nonpartisan civic leadership organization that advances representative, ethical and effective government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania through citizen engagement and public policy advocacy.
Draw the Lines PA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative from the Committee of Seventy that engages everyday Pennsylvanians in the redistricting process by giving them the tools and data to draw their own election maps. Since 2018, 7,200 Pennsylvanians have used this free and widely available software to enter DTL’s twice-yearly public competitions.