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Statement on Joint State Government Committee Hearing on Census Data

FEBRUARY 24, 2021 (HARRISBURG)

Today, the PA House and Senate State Government Committees held a joint hearing to hear testimony and discuss the impact of the delay in the state receiving census data for congressional and state legislative redistricting. The hearing was chaired by Senator David Argall (R - Schuylkill County), Majority Chair of the Senate State Government Committee.

“We applaud the Pennsylvania Senate and House in holding this important hearing,” said David Thornburgh, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy. “Taking the time to hear from national and state experts is critical, as is highlighting the importance of a fair, transparent redistricting process and understanding the impact a census delay may have.”

The Committee of Seventy launched Draw the Lines PA (DTL) in 2018. Draw the Lines is a civic education and engagement initiative that involves citizens in the process of drawing PA voting maps. Through its public map-drawing competitions, everyday Pennsylvanians have proven they are prepared to promote 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. It 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 Thornburgh.

“Specifically, we are asking 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 Thornburgh. Draw the Lines has launched an online petition at drawthelinespa.org/petition asking the legislature to open the selection process of the fifth member.

Continued Thornburgh: “We know that the delay in census data will create several challenges for redistricting, but we strongly support the idea proposed by several lawmakers today to move forward with certifying the Legislative Reapportionment Commission in advance of receiving the Census data. The Commission can start by agreeing 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. If the state waits until September, it could present a very truncated public engagement process.”

David Thornburgh recently chaired the 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.

For more information, go to drawthelinespa.org or contact Justin Villere, Draw the Lines PA Managing Director, at jvillere@drawthelinespa.org.