In order for representative democracy to truly be representative, political power needs to be determined by the people. This means voters choosing their elected representatives through a fair political process. But in Pennsylvania, current laws put politicians in control of redistricting–a process of redrawing voting districts which happens every ten years in the aftermath of the decennial census.
The Pennsylvania legislature will be redrawing lines for congressional districts to determine who will represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives and the PA House and Senate. Pennsylvania currently has 18 congressional districts, 50 Senate Districts, and 203 House Districts. The allocation of political representation is updated based on data from the decennial census to ensure politicians represent a fair portion of the population based on the changing size and shape of each district. Redistricting is an important part of our democracy. It has direct impacts on Election Day, who you seek help from, and how you advocate for issues that impact you and your community. Communities deserve equal and fair access to political representation.
Throughout history, redistricting combined with influence from partisan politics, big data, and money has resulted in gerrymandering which is district-line drawing that purposefully maximizes seats for one party or voting bloc. The most common form is aimed at a partisan advantage that protects incumbents from new challengers. Without a competitive democracy, important problems facing communities are left in the hands of politicians who cannot be held accountable. With these flawed systems, frustrated voters disengage from the political process. They view their vote to be less impactful leading to low voter turnout on Election Day and far less engagement on legislative issues. You can explore this resource to see what gerrymandering looks like across Pennsylvania.
The priority goal of elected officials should be resolving the problems of their respective constituencies, but unfair redistricting processes puts party lines above people. Gerrymandering gives an advantage to external influencers and outside money controlling elected officials voting behaviors, political agenda, and overall legislative priorities. When districts are drawn fairly, people elect representatives who reflect the views of their community as a whole. When voting district lines are manipulated through gerrymandering, the legislature is at risk of being untethered from the popular will of the people.
Representative Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) has introduced House Bill 2638, the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LARCA), which is designed to increase transparency and public engagement and provide clear measurable map-drawing criteria. Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) has introduced the same bill as Senate Bill 1242. Both bills aim to advance greater transparency into redistricting processes and introduce opportunities for public engagement through avenues such as public hearings. Both bills have garnered nonpartisan support and have been referred to their respective State Government Committees.
What can you do to advocate for fair redistricting processes?
- This is your chance to have your voice heard on this critical issue. Head over to Be the Change at www.btc.beam-data.com and ask your State Senator and State Representative to support HB 2638 and SB 1242 in order to advance a fair democracy.
- Explore each bill and how redistricting directly impacts your community. Educate your friends and family on the long-term impacts of gerrymandering.
- Get involved with Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan, statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair, supports the LARCA. This bill would ensure greater public access and accountability throughout the redistricting process.
Don’t forget to find us on Twitter and Instagram to stay on top of campaigns we launch seeking your input on Be the Change! To learn about redistricting and gerrymandering, head over to the The Brennan Center for Justice, Fair Districts PA, The National Conference of State Legislatures for helpful resources!