A Tale of Two Bills in the Fight Against Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania

Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722 were virtually identical when introduced last year in their respective chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. They had bipartisan support and were drafted by legislators, policy staff and advocates for accountable government, with the goal of ending partisan gerrymandering — the intentional drawing of voting district lines to benefit a particular political party. So far, these bills have taken divergent paths: one, exemplifying how the democratic process should work, and the other, demonstrating what can happen when this process is hijacked by partisan politics. [Read more…]

Justice and Gerrymandering: Faith Perspectives on Redistricting Reform

Fair Districts PA Chair Carol Kuniholm will discuss her own exploration of justice and love of neighbor, and the way that journey led to her involvement in redistricting reform. She’ll explain gerrymandering and its implications for the people of Pennsylvania and suggest ways for houses of worship to engage. This presentation, given in her home congregation, will be filmed for use in religious forums across the state.

This is a public event, and all are welcome to attend. The event is co-hosted by POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild) and by the Pennsylvania Council of Churches – Advocacy.

Redistricting Discussion With Gov. Wolf

You are invited to attend a non-partisan panel discussion on congressional redistricting, hosted by Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor will be joined on the panel by a representative of the Pennsylvania Department of State, as well as local experts on redistricting, including Carol Kuniholm, Chair of Fair Districts PA.

RSVP: If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to [email protected], and you will receive additional information, including the exact location of the event. Space is limited to 75, and RSVPs are required for attendance.

This event is a terrific opportunity to make your voice heard on redistricting.

A Hearing on Gerry­man­dering in Pa. Commonwealth Court

Map of the U.S. congressional districts in Pennsylvania.

This week, Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process. On Wednesday, October 4, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court will hold a hearing challenging the constitutionality of the state’s congressional district maps. Petitioners in this case, which include the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and individual citizens from across the state, claim that their votes have been rendered meaningless by maps intentionally drawn by state legislators to favor Republican outcomes. Proponents of redistricting reform are calling on Pennsylvania voters to show their support by packing the courtroom for the 10:00 a.m. hearing and the ensuing press conference. [Read more…]

Fighting to Make Our Votes Count

Carol Kuniholm addressing the press at the Pennsylvania Capitol, with supporters of redistricting reform behind her.

Now that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has returned from summer recess, advocacy groups, like Fair Districts PA and March on Harrisburg, are intensifying their fight for redistricting reform. Explaining the importance of their mission, Carol Kuniholm, chair of Fair Districts PA, said at a recent press conference in Harrisburg:

For the first time in generations, many of our fellow citizens are questioning the underlying premises of democracy itself. … We feel our votes no longer count and our voices are no longer heard. When we look for causes, we see our gerrymandered districts and our lack of choice at the polls.

[Read more…]

Redistricting 101: A Conversation With Fair Districts PA and Rep. Mary Jo Daley

You are invited to a joint town hall meeting with Carol Kuniholm of Fair Districts PA and State Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) to discuss redistricting reform in Pennsylvania. This event will provide information about gerrymandering and the possibility for reform. It will also offer attendees the opportunity to interact with others working for change.

Rep. Daley was a primary sponsor of HB 1835, the redistricting reform bill supported by Fair Districts PA in the 2017-2018 legislative session. She believes that under the current system, politics often plays too large a role in redistricting decisions, explaining:

Redistricting reform is one of the most important topics we have to deal with in the legislature because it affects nearly every partisan vote we face in session. Too often, the party in power has too much influence on drawing political boundaries, and the process becomes nothing more than gerrymandering.

I hope to see as many people as possible at the town hall – our voices on the matter can help make a difference.

Contact
Maria Teresa Dispenziere, Chief of Staff
610-832-1679
[email protected]

Fair Districts PA is a non-profit organization comprised of groups and individuals who want to take the redrawing of legislative districts lines out of the hands of politicians and put it in the hands of a non-partisan, independent, transparent citizens commission so that districts lines are not drawn to benefit or disadvantage any political party or candidate. Voters should select their legislators, rather than legislators selecting their voters.

Montgomery County: Let’s End Gerrymandering

Feel like your vote doesn’t count? The reason? Gerrymandering. As things stand in Pennsylvania, voters don’t pick their politicians; politicians pick their voters. Districts are designed by party leaders to reelect legislators who support them and eliminate those who do not.

Join us for a meeting to learn how gerrymandering has shaped our districts and what you can do to influence change. Carol Kuniholm, chair of Fair Districts PA will speak about redistricting, how gerrymandering undermines democracy and what you can do to help. Learn about Fair District PA’s plan to reform redistricting in Pennsylvania and how recent federal court decisions and changes in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may give Pennsylvanians the opportunity to take back control of our electoral process. Additionally, throughout the talk, graphic recorder Terry LaBan will be adding his talents to this event. There will also be time afterwards for questions and initial networking conversations.

For more information, contact [email protected].

Fair Districts PA Coalition Making Our Vote Count

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, the League of Women Voters and other organizations across the state announced the formation of a new coalition called Fair Districts PA. The coalition’s purpose is to advocate for reform of Pennsylvania’s redistricting rules to make the process of drawing electoral districts impartial, transparent, and accountable.

Pennsylvania's current redistricting plan is on the left. A hypothetical plan with compact districts is above on the right.

Pennsylvania’s current redistricting plan is on the left. A hypothetical plan with compact districts is above on the right.

Congressional and state legislative electoral maps are redrawn every ten years following the national census. In Pennsylvania, the process of drawing those maps is controlled almost entirely by state legislators, a conflict of interest that puts politicians in charge and takes away the rights of voters.

Some states, most notably Arizona and California, have reformed the process by establishing impartial citizen commissions and clear standards for how districts are to be drawn. The results have shown increased voter engagement and more competitive elections.

Fair District PA’s priorities include:

  • Assigning the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners, nor members of their immediate families, may be government or political party officials.
  • Ensuring the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation.
  • Establishing verifiable statistical standards for a fair election process.

[Read more…]