In a bid to improve the state’s electoral district boundaries, Gov. Tom Wolf just instituted the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission and appointed David Thornburgh, president and CEO of good government nonprofit Committee of Seventy, as chairman.
The 15-member commission, announced on Thursday through Executive Order 2018-07, will be tasked with reviewing examples of nonpartisan redistricting processes around the country, seeking input from the public around the principles that should guide a non-partisan redistricting process, and provide recommendations to state government on ways to make Pennsylvania’s map a fairer one.
“There has been significant bipartisan support for bringing more fairness to this process,” Wolf said. “The goal of this commission is to hear from experts and citizens about what can be done to make this process more fair. The redistricting process should ensure every citizen’s voice is heard in our democratic process.”
Currently, Pennsylvania uses an electoral map created by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which in January declared the prior map to be so biased that it violated the state’s constitution. After the 2020 Census, the map will need to be redrawn.
Thornburgh, whose organization funded a redistricting education and engagement effort called Draw the Lines PA, said the digital tools from the effort (including an overhauled software platform from Azavea and a site built by P’unk Ave) will help empower more people to participate in the process.
“People all around the Commonwealth who have taken up the digital tools [are] perfect contributors to the process,” Thornburgh said. “They can talk not just in generalities but in facts. They can say, ‘When I sat down to fix the problem, here’s what I came up’ and in that sense it’s do-it-yourself democracy.”
Map-drawing tools aside, the core of the Draw the Lines is more about goals and values. The discussion elicited from the education effort will help the commission understand what values Pennsylvanians wish to see in the redistricting effort.
“That’s a big part of the process,” Thornburgh said. “It’s not just, ‘Here’s a tool, go crazy’: You have to put thought into it.”
One component of the Draw the Lines effort is a state-wide mapping competition. The deadline to enter the contest is Dec 14.
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