When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its new drawings of Pennsylvania's U.S. Congressional Districts on Feb. 19, state Republicans immediately criticized them and said they would challenge the maps in federal court. The state’s 18 congressional districts were redrawn earlier this month after the state Supreme Court ruled the original 2011 maps violated the Pennsylvania Constitution as a partisan gerrymander
Federal judges have scheduled a March 9 hearing to listen to arguments concerning the new congressional district maps.
While the outcome of the federal district court's decision will undoubtedly have a big effect on how Pennsylvanians vote in upcoming elections, a grassroots group wants to remind people that having legislators draw maps and then battle in the courts is not the only way to reshape districts in Pennsylvania.
Fair Districts PA
is holding a meeting on Feb. 26, at the Mount Lebanon Public Library, to teach people about how Pennsylvania’s 18th U.S. Congressional District has been reshaped over the years, in hopes of informing voters of the negative effects gerrymandering has had on voter turnout and election results.
The discussion will be led by Carnegie Mellon University associate professor Dr. Anna Fisher and David Misra, who holds a master’s degree in public policy and political management from American University, in Washington, D.C.
A press release for the event says the discussion will have a special emphasis on the March 13 special election in the 18th District between Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) and Rick Saccone
(R-Elizabeth). The event will also provide updates on the progress of two bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly seeking to change how district maps are drawn. Both Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722 were proposed by Fair Districts PA to create a non-partisan, independent body to draw the state’s congressional, state Senate, and state House districts. So far, SB 22 has yet to see a vote in state Sen. Mike Folmer’s
(R-Dauphin) state government committee, and HB 722 has yet to see a vote in the house state-government committee chaired by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe
Currently the state’s maps are drawn by state legislators. And when one party controls all the chambers of the state government, as the Republicans did in 2011, the redrawing of the maps that occurs every 10 years can be done to unfairly benefit one political party. Even so, the Fair Districts PA-backed bills appear to be gaining support from politicians.
HB 722 has a bipartisan list of more than 100 cosponsors, and SB 22 has a bipartisan list 18 state senators. Betsy Monroe, a Democratic state house candidate from Fox Chapel, said in a press release that the bills are a “fair, balanced approach to redistricting” in Pennsylvania. She implores legislators like Folmer and Metcalfe to bring the bills up for votes.
“There are currently fair district bills with bipartisan support in both the PA House and Senate, but those bills will only continue to languish in committee, unless our elected Republican-controlled legislature steps up and publicly calls for a vote,” said Monroe in a press release.
The Fair Districts PA event
is free and open to the public. It will be held 7-8:30 p.m. Mon., Feb, 26, at the Mount Lebanon Public Library, in Meeting Room A.