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HomeFair Districts

Fair Districts PA


Fair Districts and League of Women Voters members team up at a community festival in 2019.

The League of Women Voters and Fair Districts PA


The League of Women Voters in Pennsylvania has been a strong and vocal advocate for redistricting reform for more than 3 decades. Before the formation of Fair Districts PA, the LWV was working to eliminate partisan gerrymandering by:

  • testifying at government hearings,
  • lobbying for an amendment to the PA Constitution to create a nonpartisan redistricting board,
  • campaigning on behalf of a transparent and fair redistricting process, and
  • supporting litigation against unfair redistricting plans.

In January of 2016, LWVPA joined with Common Cause PA, Committee of Seventy, PA Council of Churches, and other good government reform organizations to form Fair Districts PA, a coalition dedicated to redistricting reform.



Fair Districts PA has expanded the League's advocacy, and has greatly raised awareness of the gerrymandering issue across PA . Fair Districts volunteers have:

  • made over 900 presentations to community groups statewide,
  • collected over 100,000 signatures in support of redistricting reform,
  • submitted over 300 letters to the editor in newspapers across the state,
  • contacted their local representatives thousands of times,
  • demonstrated in Harrisburg, and
  • helped draft bipartisan redistricting bills that had the largest number of co-sponsors in their sessions.


A community group listens to a Fair Districts PA presentation led by a LWVPGH member.


Fair Districts PA is a project of the LWVPA, and a part of the LWVUS national "People Powered Fair Maps" campaign.


The Fair Districts PA Mission


The mission of Fair Districts PA is to create fair legislative districts, and a fair and transparent redistricting process in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians deserve state and federal representatives who are accountable and responsive to the citizens they serve, and a system that allows voters to choose their politicians, instead of the other way around.


Gerrymandering hurts the democratic process in many ways:

  • Safe "red" or "blue" districts send more extreme candidates to Harrisburg and Washington, increasing partisan divides,
  • Districts stretch over several municipalities and larger geographical areas, making it difficult for representatives to maintain relationships with the communities they represent.
  • Politicians in safe "red" or 'blue" districts have little incentive to respond to their constituents.

For much more info about redistricting reform in Pennsylvania, visit the Fair Districts PA website.

Fair Districts PA Priorities for 2021


#1 Reform the Rules


On January 5th, 2021, our representatives in Harrisburg were sworn in to begin the new legislative session. Their first vote approved rules that control how bills progress through committee hearings and are brought to a vote in the General Assembly.


Current rules allow a small number of legislative leaders (including Committee Chairs, Majority Leader and the Speaker) to decide which bills are considered. They can control whether bills ever get voted out of committee, ever get a full floor vote or if a vote that has passed one chamber will get a vote in the other chamber. The result is that bills which have the support of a majority of elected representatives can be stopped, (and often are,) if they don't fit the agenda of a handful of leaders. Learn more, and follow this issue on our Harrisburg Watch page.

#2 Prevent Judicial Gerrymandering


In the 2019-20 session, the Legislature hurriedly passed a bill that would change the PA Constitution to allow for election of appellate judges by region.  That was Act 196.  Because it needs to pass in two sessions, it has been reintroduced in the 2021-22 session with as House Bill 38. It is too late for the bill to be passed in time for a referendum question on the May Primary ballot, but it is still on track to for the November ballot.


FDPA strongly opposes this legislation since it simply amounts to a judicial gerrymander. Volunteers are actively advocating with legislators right now against this legislation.


Harrisburg Watch -- Take Action

Judicial Gerrymandering -- Election of Judges by Region

Act 196 has been reintroduced in the new legislative session as House Bill 38. The LWVPGH strongly opposes HB 38, which would advance the process of amending the PA Constitution to allow judicial gerrymandering.

 

Contact information is available here: Find Your PA Legislator

 

You can read HB38 here. Read or Follow HB38 Here


Here's a simple script and tips for contacting your legislator by phone or email.  Contact Your Elected Officials - Script

To get more involved, visit the Fair Districts PA site for detailed information about citizen advocacy. FDPA contact tips

#3 Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA)


It is no longer possible to pass legislation to implement an independent citizens redistricting commission before redistricting in 2021, although FDPA still believes that would have been the best approach to redrawing districts after the census. 


However, LACRA, while it would not amend the PA Constitution, would provide the transparency and accountability that is absolutely necessary to ensure that districts are drawn appropriately without gerrymandering. FDPA will be working hard on this bill as well when it is introduced.




Wait...Didn't the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just decide on a new district map for the state? Aren't we done?


Well, Yes and No...

  • Yes -- The PA Supreme Court ordered a new district map in 2018 but,
  • No -- That map was for US Congressional districts. Districts for Pennsylvania's General Assembly in Harrisburg are still gerrymandered;
  • No -- All district maps will be redrawn following the 2020 census, meaning the 2018 US Congressional districts are not permanent.

A Local Gerrymandering Example --

Ross Township


In the 1990's, Ross Township and the North Hills School District were contained in the 29th PA House District and one representative in Harrisburg served the entire township. This representative was popular with his constituents, but not with the majority party in Harrisburg, so...


In 2001, district lines were redrawn, breaking Ross Township residents into four state house districts.


...when the districts were redrawn after the 2000 census, Ross Township was divided into 4 separate state house districts, specifically to separate this particular representative from his supporters and allow someone else to be elected.


Why is this a problem? If the North Hills school board wanted to contact their representative about state education policy, they had four separate representatives to contact, and each of these representatives had a minority of their voters in the North Hills school district. If Ross Township officials wanted to coordinate with the state on funding state infrastructure projects, they had a similar problem.


Ross Township residents, already united by one municipal government and one school district, had to join in a different, artificially defined communities to work with their state representatives. Ross residents were a minority in each of these four districts, resulting in a loss of political influence for Ross voters.


Following the 2010 census, district lines were redrawn again. Now Ross Township is part of two oddly shaped districts which continue to divide the municipality and school district.


Fair Districts advocates for compact districts that follow municipal and community boundaries as much as possible. This improves the ability of communities to work with their state representatives, and increases the accountability and responsiveness of state government.

2012- More reasonable districts, but Ross is still divided into two oddly shaped districts.