Monday May 21, 2018
Advocates are cautiously optimistic?
WRITTEN BY BY JOSEPH HAINTHALER
Is there still hope for a permanent solution to the partisan drawing of congressional and legislative districts in Pennsylvania?
A representative of Fair Districts PA, which has supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a citizens commission for redistricting, is a believer.
"If the Senate and the House want to do this, they can do it in a week," Arthur Naylor, coordinator of Fair Districts PA in Berks and Schuylkill counties, said Thursday. "So it's possible."
So far, the process has been slowed by an amendment that transformed a House bill supported by Naylor's group. The rewrite, done last month in the House State Government Committee, would create a process even more partisan than today's, according to reform advocates.
Naylor is pleased that House Majority Leader Dave Reed, an Indiana County Republican, has said Pennsylvania's redistricting system needs to change.
"That's really significant," Naylor said of Reed's promise to offer a reform proposal. "That's great."
Reed, who is retiring late this year, made the offer early this month.
"I've heard a lot of comments from a lot of folks across the state with frustrations with our current redistricting process, and you know to be honest, I agree," Reed said. "I don't think it's the greatest process in the world. It's served us for the last couple hundred years, but I think it could be better."
From what Reed has said, his proposal differs from Senate Bill 22, supported by Fair Districts PA.
Senate Bill 22, which is scheduled for consideration in the Senate State Government Committee today, calls for a citizens commission drawn randomly from people who apply to the Department of State to participate.
It includes requirements aimed at reflecting the state's demographics - with balance in gender, ethnicity and geography - and ensuring political balance, Naylor said. Members of the commission would have to have voted in two of the last three elections, he said.
Reed said he would prefer a more random system, one similar to jury selection, allowing people to bow out if they wish.
Naylor would prefer Senate Bill 22 but is open to Reed's proposal.
To change the system in time for the 2021 round of redistricting, a bill would have to pass both chambers of the state Legislature this year, again next year, and then be approved by the voters in 2020.
Naylor said his group considers June 30 the deadline for action in the House and Senate.
Contact Joseph Hainthaler: 610-371-5035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there hope for a permanent solution to gerrymandering?