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A Majority Of Registered Voters Want Independent Commission To Draw District Maps, Poll Reveals

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court-issued map of the commonwealth's congressional districts.

The months-long legal challenge to Pennsylvania's congressional districts came to a halt in February, when the state Supreme Court issued its own map

This happened despite the state constitution relegating map drawing power to the legislature.

A statewide poll commissioned by three self-described nonpartisan nonprofits -- Common Cause PA, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Why Courts Matter -- shows that 68 percent of registered voters would prefer a system where an independent commission would create the map moving forward. Only 22 percent of respondents said they preferred the current system.

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania executive director Suzanne Almeida said a Senate bill is proposing a new way to draw maps. Senate Bill 22, which has been referred to the state, would create an independent committee that would consist of 11 members who are citizens, not lawmakers.

"It would be four members from the largest party, four members from the second largest party and then three members who are from unaffiliated or third parties," Almeida said. "And those 11 people would work together to create district maps."

District maps are created after each census, meaning the next one would be drawn in 2020, in time for the 2022 elections.

To transfer the map drawing authority from the legislature to an independent body, the legislature would have to vote in two consecutive sessions to take that power away from themselves. Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause PA, said he has some faith that could happen.

"You have to be willing to hear the will of the constituents, and as the poll indicated, it is an overwhelming majority that believe the process of representatives choosing their voters needs to end," Sims said. "We need to actually have voters choose their representatives, by not only casting ballots but actually in the drawing of the map."

Story updated Wednesday, May 2 at 4:20 p.m. to clarify the details of Senate Bill 22.