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Letter to Senate State Government Committee: Support Redistricting Criteria and Transparency Bill

September 23, 2020

Dear Senator:

The Committee of Seventy has for several years -- along with tens of thousands of Pennsyvlvanians and many of you -- called for an independent commission to draw our congressional and legislative maps in 2021. The window of opportunity for such reform around who draws political districts is nearly closed. But there is still time to address the what and the how of redistricting, which can still significantly mitigate the risk of gerrymandering and bolster public trust in the process.

Senate Bill 1242, co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Killion and Sen. Lisa Boscola, includes numerous substantive measures that can be put in place around the criteria, public access and input, and transparency in a redistricting process. We recommend that you vote favorably on this legislation.

With regard to criteria for how the lines should be drawn, this legislation:

  • Protects racial and language minorities from having their representation diminished;
  • Ensures that the current constitutional requirements for compactness, continuity, and division of political subdivisions be applied to both the legislative and congressional maps;
  • Installs additional safeguards on the splitting of counties, which was a predominant concern heard by the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission;
  • Prohibits gerrymandering for or against incumbents or political parties; and
  • Codifies communities of interest, responsiveness, and natural geographic boundaries as factors to be considered.

And critically, this bill would guarantee a meaningful degree of public scrutiny and participation that has never been available in prior redistricting cycles. That citizens across the commonwealth have an opportunity to use official data and software to demonstrate directly to the mapdrawers their preference for political boundaries would be a major step forward. This is the principle behind Draw the Lines PA, the statewide mapping project that Seventy has run since 2018, preparing thousands of Pennsylvanians to create the districts in which they hope to be represented. We look forward to their role in the process in 2021.

Thank you.

David Thornburgh
President and CEO
Committee of Seventy