The issue of gerrymandering has been contested at local, state, and national levels for years, with Pennsylvania said to rank as one of the most gerrymandered states.
A resolution calling for an end to gerrymandering was introduced in December by Lebanon City Council member Wiley P. Parker. Council voted in support of the resolution at its Dec. 16 meeting, with the lone “nay” vote from Council Chairman Wayne Carey.
The resolution reflects council’s support of state legislation to create a citizens commission for legislative and congressional redistricting. Read the full resolution in PDF here.
The resolution was advocated by nonprofit Fair Districts PA, a coalition of individuals and organizations that aims to promote and enact state-level redistricting reform. In a release, the organization applauded Lebanon City Council for “joining more than 318 municipalities and 21 counties” that have passed a similar resolution.
Currently, state redistricting power belongs exclusively to the four majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate, plus a fifth person, who may be appointed by the other members if possible but is otherwise appointed by the state Supreme Court. Congressional redistricting is voted on by the General Assembly and signed by the governor.
According to Fair Districts PA, a weakness of this system is the lack of a law mandating how districts should be redrawn. As such, incumbents are able to redraw their own districts. As LebTown has covered elsewhere, some organizations have used this “redrawing” concept as an opportunity to explore what a better map would look like.
The proposed citizens redistricting commission would be independent, non-partisan, and transparent to allow for a fairer redistricting process that would limit the possibility of gerrymandering.
While City Council resolutions have little legislative power, they can have an influence on legislators’ decisions, as they often demonstrate the general stance of their constituents on certain issues.
The legislation currently in progress to create a citizens commission consists of Pennsylvania House Bills 22 and 23. If passed into law, these bills would create an Independent Citizens Commission and grant it redistricting power.
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