April 24 Testimony on Redistricting Legislation

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Watch my testimony before the Senate Government Committee. The entire hearing is available online at: http://www.pasenategop.com/blog/042418-2/. Read highlights of my written testimony below (full written testimony here):

In June 2011, I testified before the State Government Committee regarding congressional districts. It is an honor to nearly 7 years later be once again before the State Government Committee providing testimony related to redistricting.

Back in 2012, the flaws in the State Senate and State House maps adversely impacted over 7 million people (more than 50% of the state population). Today, traditional redistricting principles continue to be ignored.

In the last 7 years and thousands of hours I’ve spent engaging in redistricting, I’ve asked a question many of you are likely asking today: how does the legislature restore public trust and integrity to the redistricting process?

The answer is critical to protecting the voice of the people, to addressing overreaches in government, and to ensuring the rule of law prevails. It is essential to preserving our free government.

Today, I seek to begin a redistricting conversation with the Senate State Government Committee, which I hope will continue past this hearing.

Who draws the maps?

As this committee is aware, currently legislatures and commissions do not actually draw legislative district maps. They give instructions to another person(s) regarding how the maps should be drawn.

Yet when criticisms are made of the process, it is generally not the map drawer that is the subject of discussion, but those providing the instructions to the person(s) drawing the map. The matter of greatest concern is then not the person drawing the maps, but the instructions they are given.

So then essentially, these instructions are the criteria used to create legislative district maps. This means measurable standards are of paramount importance. They protect any semblance of integrity in the process and determine if and how to hold accountable the map drawer as well as those providing instructions, whether a citizen commission or legislative process.

Review of Senate Bills: Commissions

After researching and reviewing state constitutions and statutes, extensive case law, what has happened both in Pennsylvania and other states, it is my opinion that there are shortcomings in the bills currently being presented to your committee.

  • Is it impossible to legislate impartiality?
  • Is it impossible to legislate partisan balance?
  • Are the timetables realistic or adequate?

Suggested Map Drawing Criteria 

When our Commonwealth receives a reputation as having some of the worst gerrymandered legislative districts in the nation, public trust reaches an all-time low. When obvious district manipulations are given a pass, the integrity of the whole system comes into question.

None of the proposed bills really address the root cause of this redistricting quandary – the truth from James Madison that all are susceptible to bias, self-interest, and manipulation. While shifting the map-drawing power to a group which is not dependent on the districts for their livelihood is worth considering, it still fails to address the human element which started this conversation.

Why settle for a proposal which leaves the voice of the people so blatantly open to be preyed on by human nature? Why leave in place a process which requires extreme and egregious visual examples before the people may receive a remedy? 

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