ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
For many years, election reform advocates have been asking the General Assembly to reform the redistricting process and to end the conflict of interest that allows lawmakers to choose voters rather than voters choosing their representatives. Rather than giving voters the kind of reform they have demanded, HB 2207 would actually make the problem worse by setting up a sham "citizen's commission" but leaving the real power in the hands of the majority party in each chamber of the General Assembly.
We concur with the following concerns about HB 2207 outlined by Fair Districts PA:
- HB 2207 proposes to amend the PA Constitution to abolish the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) and replace it with an 11-member “citizens commission,” most of whom would be appointed by leaders of the General Assembly. This is NOT the independent citizens commission that voters deserve.
- The bill fails to provide for membership on the commission for Independent and third-party voters.
- The new commission appears to be designed to fail. A redistricting plan would require approval by two-thirds of commission members, which will certainly lead to partisan gridlock and failure to agree on a redistricting plan.
- When the commission fails to meet the extremely short deadlines for approving a plan, the bill allows the Senate and House to step in and approve new legislative maps by a simple majority vote, not the two-thirds required for the commission itself to act. Each chamber votes only on its own map.
- Unlike the current process for congressional redistricting, there would be no role for the Governor in approving or vetoing a Senate or House map.
- The proposed constitutional amendment could appear on the ballot as early as May of 2023 assuming it passes this year and again early in the next session.
- HB 2207 would take effect immediately, paving the way for new legislative district maps in time for the 2024 election. Candidates for Senate and House would run in new districts different from those they will run in next year.
Additional insight: Pennsylvania Republicans are planning a redistricting redo in time for the 2024 election, Pennsylvania Capital-Star op-ed by Patrick Beaty, legislative director of Fair Districts PA, January 7, 2022.