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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 25, 2017 04:39 PM
From: Senator Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Congressional Redistricting Reform
Currently, there is no open process prescribed by the state Constitution for congressional redistricting in Pennsylvania. While the Pennsylvania Constitution prescribes the criteria and procedure for legislative redistricting in Article II, sections 16 and 17, it is silent as to any procedure by which congressional districts must be drawn. As such, congressional districts are established by an act of the General Assembly subject to gubernatorial veto similar to ordinary legislation.

In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to finally require an open, public process and create an independent commission for establishing the commonwealth’s congressional districts beginning after the next federal decennial census in 2020. The commission would consist of five members – two registered Democrats, two registered Republicans and one individual not registered with either party. Interested applicants would be vetted by the secretary of the commonwealth to ensure they meet minimum qualifications and randomly selected for appointment to the commission. My legislation would prohibit a person from being a member if he or she:
  • has been a candidate for governor, General Assembly and Congress for the last five years or are immediate family members thereof;
  • has ever been convicted or pleaded guilty to embezzlement of public money, bribery, perjury or infamous crime;
  • is registered as a lobbyist;
  • has ever served as staff, a consultant to a person under contract with or a person who is an immediate family member to the governor, a member of the General Assembly or a member of Congress from Pennsylvania;
  • holds an appointive office in the executive or legislative branches of Federal, State or local government
The commission would be subject to the Sunshine Act and the Right-to-Know Law, and it must maintain a publicly accessible website. Also, commission members would be prohibited from consulting on redistricting with anyone outside the commission except for counsel, consultants hired by the commission, the Legislative Data Processing Center or the U.S. Census Bureau.

The commission would be required to hold at least six public hearings before it adopts a preliminary plan and another hearing before it adopts a final plan, and follow specific deadlines for the adoption and advertisement of each plan. If it does not adopt a final plan by December 15 in the year following the census, the secretary will petition the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to appoint a special master to draw it.

My legislation would also require congressional districts to be established on the basis of population, comply with federal constitutional law and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, be equal in population, respect geographic integrity of counties and municipalities, be geographically contiguous, encourage geographic compactness, and split as few political subdivisions as possible.

Please join me in requiring our congressional redistricting process to abide by specific procedures in an open, public process by co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB767