- 17th District
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SB 552: Redistricting Reform
Senate Bill 552 is a constitutional amendment aimed at reducing the opportunity for gerrymandering and increasing the possibility of having competitive elections in our Commonwealth. It creates a Redistricting Commission that is required to conduct all its activity in public, prohibits political considerations in drawing the lines, requires a super-majority of the commission to approve any redistricting plan, and gives a precise definition to the terms “compact” and “contiguous.” Taken as a whole, the reforms in this bill would make all of our Commonwealth’s statehouse and Congressional elections more competitive. Legislators should not get to choose their voters; voters should get to choose their legislators.
The death of democracy: Daylin Leach at TEDxPho
- During the 2012 Congressional elections, Democratic candidates across the country received 1.4 million more votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans held 33 more seats in Congress than Democrats.
- During Pennsylvania’s Congressional elections, Democratic candidates received 75,870 more votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans won eight more seats than Democrats (13 Republicans, 5 Democrats).
- The United States continues to grow more diverse, but Republican Congressional districts do not reflect this trend.
- Gerrymandering is a clear violation of the most basic tenet of democracy: “Majority Rules.”
- Before the first vote is cast we already know who will win each election.
- General elections no longer matter – most elections are decided in the Primary.
- Politicians who know they will easily win the next general election have an incentive to shun compromise and to support policies favored only by the extreme wing of their party: Safe seats mean polarized politics.
- Gerrymandering is a form of voter disenfranchisement.
- If you have to rig elections to win, #YourIdeasSuck.
Groups Working on Redistricting Reform
Redistricting is the process by which we use census data to redraw Pennsylvania’s state legislative boundaries to reflect shifts in population every ten years. Redistricting is mandated by federal law, and the method we use is taken from our state’s constitution (Article II, Section 17).
Legislative redistricting should be free of political influence, and should not give an advantage to one party over another. However, through the process known as gerrymandering, redistricting is used in Pennsylvania to protect incumbent legislators and create permanent party majorities.
In PA’s latest round of state redistricting, the original plan created using 2010 census data was so badly gerrymandered that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional , and a new plan was created. That plan was also challenged, but the Supreme Court unanimously approved it on May 8, 2013. Despite the Supreme Court’s approval, the new redistricting plan is still gerrymandered and largely unsatisfactory. (To view the approved plan, please click here.)
On the Federal level, Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts are redrawn every ten years through a bill that must pass through both chambers and be signed into law by the governor.
Act 131 of 2011 was the vehicle through which the most recent Congressional lines were drawn – and it was a plan that was more egregiously gerrymandered than the plan approved for State Senate and State House districts. In fact, after the plan was put in place, eight fewer Democrats were elected to Congress from Pennsylvania than Republicans, despite Democratic Party candidates earning 75,870 more votes for Congress than Republicans.
Winning Democratic candidates won by an average more than 185,000 votes, whereas winning Republican candidates won by an average of 55,000 votes.
To that end, I have introduced legislation that would expand the membership of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission and require a supermajority of members to pass any plan. This would require cooperation on the part of the commissioners, resulting in a fair process that better reflects the best interests of all Pennsylvanians.
The bottom line is this: currently in Pennsylvania, politicians pick their voters, rather than the other way around. I aim to change that with the introduction of SB 552.
Last updated: February 29, 2016 at 9:44 am