The Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA), authored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) and which would establish clear, measurable district-drawing criteria designed to prevent partisan gerrymandering received committee approval today.
“Citizens should pick their legislators, not vice versa,” said Killion. “My bill imposes strong requirements for transparency and accountability to voters within the current state constitutional framework for redistricting.”
The process by which Pennsylvania’s legislative and congressional districts are redrawn after a federal census has been subject to much criticism from government reform advocates. Controlled by legislative leaders, it is argued the system enables gerrymandering, the drawing of districts for the benefit of one party.
LACRA, formally Senate Bill 1242, was approved by the Senate’s State Government Committee by an 8-3 vote. It would affect both the state legislative and congressional redistricting processes and require:
- Multiple statewide public hearings both before and after preliminary redistricting plans are approved.
- All meetings to be subject to the Open Meetings Law and to be live-streamed with accommodations for multiple languages and convenient times for the public;
- A user-friendly website for dissemination of data, proposed maps and analyses, public comments and other information free of charge to the public; and
- The acceptance of redistricting maps covering any or all districts or parts of districts from the public. Citizen maps would be available on the public website and be given consideration equal to formal testimony presented at public hearings.
Clear mapping criteria would also be required under LACRA. Those include:
- The application for existing state constitutional requirements for compactness, contiguity and prohibited division of political subdivisions “unless absolutely necessary” to both legislative and congressional redistricting;
- Additional limits on the division of counties beyond what is required by population and a prohibition against dividing voting precincts;
- Protection of racial and language minorities against discrimination in mapping process.
- A prohibition against gerrymandering designed to protect incumbents or to unfairly discriminate against political parties; and
- Redistricting plans would also be expected to keep communities of interest intact and be responsive to voter preferences.
Redistricting reform advocates support the measure.
“Senate Bill 1242 provides clear, measurable mapping criteria designed to prevent gerrymandering and ensure that PA Constitutional requirements are respected,” said Carol Kuniholm, Chair of Fair Districts PA. “It also makes the redistricting process more transparent and accessible to the people of Pennsylvania. This much-needed reform will help restore confidence that legislators are accountable to their voters.”
“I’m grateful to Chairman John DiSanto for advancing this critical legislation,” said Killion. “The current redistricting process is broken. While a citizens’ commission is ideal, constitutional limits won’t allow us to introduce it for next year’s redistricting. However, we can bring a significant measure of reform to redistricting by passing this legislation.”