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Redistricting Reformers Looking Outside The Box For Legislative Options

Gov. Tom Wolf

After a year of campaigning and months of legislative debate, it’s likely too late for state lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment overhauling Pennsylvania’s redistricting process before the next map-redrawing gets underway in 2021.

So now, reform advocates are exploring alternative options.

Critics of the map-drawing methods for congressional and state legislative districts have spent months insisting state lawmakers have too much power over the process—and saying that leads to political gerrymandering and incumbent protection.  

Despite some tortured progress toward creating a citizen redistricting commission this spring, the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a plan in time for the two-session amendment process to start.

But Carol Kuniholm, with Fair Districts PA, said the group’s still looking into legal options to get an amendment done on a shortened timeline.

Plus, she said if that fails, lawmakers don’t need an amendment to change the congressional district-drawing process—or to make a number of smaller changes.

“You know, rules on having it be a public process, not being allowed to use partisan data, having to give reasons for splitting communities or municipalities or, particularly, for splitting counties,” she said.

Lawmakers return to Harrisburg from their summer break next month.

Kuniholm said the group won’t start lobbying in earnest until the new session starts in January—noting, they’re hoping lawmakers who are more amenable to their ideas win the midterm elections.