New Reform Legislation Would Add Transparency, Public Input to Opaque Redistricting Process
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New Reform Legislation Would Add Transparency, Public Input to Opaque Redistricting Process

Pat Christmas, Policy Director
Committee of Seventy; 919-423-7281


PHILADELPHIA – Councilmember Derek Green today introduced his second package of reform legislation this year, this time proposing a special commission to gather public input for redrawing Philadelphia’s 10 City Council districts.

The reform proposal resembles the model used in Pittsburgh, where an advisory committee holds hearings with the public and drafts a preliminary map for lawmakers to consider. Only a handful of major U.S. cities have formalized advisory committees for redrawing local political districts. Only two major cities, New York City and Sacramento, have transferred redistricting authority entirely to independent commissions.

The legislation proposed by Green would enshrine the new special commission and its duties in the Home Rule Charter—permanency that will be crucial when a future City Council begins the next redistricting process in 2031. Notable provisions include: 

  • Composition: One resident would be chosen by the Council President from each of the ten districts. The 11th member and chair would be chosen by the first 10.

  • Rules and prohibitions: Commission members would be subject to political activity restrictions and could not be candidates, registered lobbyists in the city or state, or paid public employees or officials. Members would have to forgo candidacy in the next district council election that uses the new map.

  • Mapping report and rationale: After collecting public input, the commission would draft a proposed district map in addition to a report documenting the commission’s findings, the principles used and explanations for the proposed districts.

  • Timeline: City Council would retain final authority in passing a mapping ordinance, but would have 12 months to consider it, instead of the current six. Their failure to pass a map would result in Council members missing paychecks, as is currently required by the Charter.

“City Council would still have a substantial role in redistricting, but the commission designed in this proposal would be a huge step forward,” said Pat Christmas, Committee of Seventy’s policy director. “City residents are still deeply frustrated by what they saw from City Hall’s official redistricting process this winter: two rushed hearings where participants each had only three minutes to speak. This proposal would mandate a basic level of public process and transparency.”

Nearly 90 civic and community groups co-signed a roadmap agenda submitted to Council before they began the most recent redistricting, laying out commonsense recommendations for involving and prioritizing communities: hearings for areas around the city, online surveys and a means to submit resident-drawn districts, followed by a preliminary map and rationale that the public could examine and respond to. Advocates also asked that data reallocating incarcerated Philadelphians to their home addresses be used for mapmaking.

“The question now is whether this legislation will have a chance to be heard,” added Christmas. “It was the Council President’s call on how to run the most recent redistricting process. Now he and his colleagues have an opportunity to offload the time-intensive work of mapmaking to another body that will basically do their homework for them. Who wouldn’t want that?”

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