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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Plan Would Take Politicians Out Of Redistricting

The Pennsylvania State House chamber.
Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania’s next redistricting effort is five years away, but one state lawmaker is already thinking about changing how it’s done.

Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) plans to propose an overhaul that would take politicians out of the process of redrawing district lines to accommodate population changes.

Wozniak echoes the observations of pollsters and political science professors when he talks about partisan redistricting, and how Republican control of the process for the past two cycles has yielded GOP pickups and, Wozniak believes, more ideologically extreme candidates.

“What I want to do is, let the citizens make that decision as to where these districts are at,” said Wozniak. “Not the politicians -- because they screwed things up, and they made a mess of it.”

Wozniak’s plan, modeled off of a process adopted by California, would put redistricting in the control a commission of 11 registered voters – some partisans, some independents -- who haven’t held elected office recently.

The Democratic said he’ll introduce the proposal soon, though he doesn’t have high hopes for its passage.

“I don’t think the prospects are good,” Wozniak said. “The party in power is not going to release any kind of authority to the citizenry... nobody’s going to give up, willingly, their majority.”

Wozniak himself is considered a top target for Republicans trying to flip Democratic seats in the state Senate. He said Pennsylvania’s latest reapportionment, approved in 2013, made his district more favorable to a GOP candidate.