Fair Districts Pennsylvania (FDPA) recently released its final People’s Maps to the Pennsylvania Legislative Redistricting Commission (LRC) for their consideration. The LRC is tasked with drawing official Pennsylvania House and Senate voting districts for the 2022 elections and the coming decade based on the latest U.S. Census. They must unveil their proposed maps soon to allow sufficient time for public comment and final revisions. The Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s office has asked for approved maps by January 24th to allow prospective candidates to begin circulating nominating petitions in time for spring primary elections in May.
FDPA unveiled its initial legislative draft maps on October 27th. They were created with input from more than 1,000 people from all parts of Pennsylvania and presented to the LRC for their consideration. Since then, FDPA has solicited and received further public commentary suggesting potential changes and improvements. If suggestions met and furthered the priorities chosen for mapping, they were incorporated into the final drafts.
“Fair Districts PA supporters and allies believe that electoral districts belong to all of us, and that all of us should have a say in how districts are drawn,” FDPA Chair Carol Kuniholm said. “The People’s Maps are significant improvements over existing districts.”
“We started our People’s Maps from a blank sheet. Our goal was not to protect incumbents but to draw maps that provided much fairer representation for all Pennsylvanians.
*Our proposed districts are more compact and contiguous. They significantly reduce the number of split counties, municipalities and school districts, with far better metrics for compactness.
*They take into account the unique geography of PA where rivers and ridges are often ignored in the mapping process, leaving significant portions of some current districts isolated from their representatives.
*FDPA followed the mapping goals and guidelines in our proposed Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (HB22/SB222). While that bill was blocked by Legislative leaders, its principles should still apply. Among them: no county should be split more than the population requires plus one for Senate seats and plus two for House seats, and no splitting of precincts (e.g. If a county’s population is large enough to warrant two Senate districts, it cannot be divided into any more than three.)
*State and national experts guided us on the requirements of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, helping us create districts that expand opportunities for racial and language groups often disenfranchised by past gerrymandering. We were aided in that process by the Pennsylvania Voice project and community leaders who provided additional insight on urban populations and communities of interest. Our final House map creates six more minority/majority districts than the existing PA House map had when it was drawn in 2012.
“We have stressed from the beginning that there is no perfect map,” Kuniholm added. “Priorities need to be held in tension with each other. Every mapper has to make compromises and concessions in deciding which takes priority over another. Our mapping team did an excellent job of balancing legal requirements, Pennsylvania-specific challenges, and input from across the Commonwealth.
“We know the people of Pennsylvania are watching carefully. They are far better educated about redistricting and its impact on their lives than was possible in the past, and they are unwilling to put up with the kind of back-room political wheeling and dealing that has, for far too long, been part of Pennsylvania’s redistricting history under both parties.
“They want a redistricting process that is fair and transparent, that welcomes citizen input and involvement, and that provides real representation for all Pennsylvanians. It is time for maps that are ‘Not Red, Not Blue, Just Fair.’”