As Pennsylvania continues to stagger toward another round of gerrymandering state legislative and congressional seats, California has announced that the online application process is open for state residents who want to be part of the 2020 Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year threw out the most recent congressional district map, which was devised by politicians in the state Legislature after the 2010 census. And that discarded map was better than the one that lawmakers originally came up with. The Supreme Court found the original map to be so badly gerrymandered that it delayed implementation from 2012 to 2014 and ordered improvements.
Before the Supreme Court commissioned the new congressional map last year, Pennsylvania was among the most heavily gerrymandered states for congressional districts, and it still is for state legislative districts.
That is because state lawmakers themselves control the redistricting process, and ruthlessly conduct it for their own benefit rather than in the cause of the “free and fair elections” required by the state constitution.
As if to emphasize that prevailing self-interest, lawmakers last year killed a reform effort. The original proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission was killed by lawmakers who amended it into oblivion or rendered it toxic with legislative poison pills.
So the state maintains its demonstrably corrupt system, which is fundamental to bad governance. Holders of gerrymandered seats face no pressure to compromise because they have chosen their own voters to suit their own agendas. The result is the political polarization and policy paralysis that characterizes the nation’s largest full-time legislature.
California eliminated a politician-controlled redistricting system following a statewide referendum in 2008, in favor of a 14-member citizens’ commission comprising five Republicans, five Democrats and four independent members.
In 2010, nearly 30,000 Californians applied to sit on the commission. In Pennsylvania, the same half dozen state legislative leaders responsible for the state’s poor governance also remain in charge of drawing new districts.
Pennsylvania residents should demand that their lawmakers release their grip on the redistricting process.
— The Scranton Times-Tribune