PUMP Calls for Citizen-Led Redistricting Process in Comments to PA Redistricting Reform Commission

Katie Phillips Active + Engaged Residents, Advocacy, Featured Advocacy

The Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission, convened by Governor Wolf, began collecting public feedback on the redistricting process in April 2019. These comments will be used to inform the Commission’s final report to Governor Wolf.

You can still submit your comments online here.

On May 31, 2019, PUMP submitted the following responses to the Redistricting Reform Commission’s prompts:

How has the redistricting process affected you or your community? Do you have a story that illustrates how you or your community are impacted by the drawing of political boundaries?

PUMP (www.pump.org) is a nonprofit that has served alongside young people in the Greater Pittsburgh Region for over 20 years. Our mission is to engage, educate, and mobilize all young people to create change in our community. Each year, we serve nearly 30,000 individuals, primarily under the age of 40. In 2015, we began an 18-month community process to learn from our constituents – primarily people under the age of 40 – about the issues that matter to them. Out of these conversations, civic engagement emerged as a key pillar of our Advocacy + Public Policy Agenda, which represents PUMP’s collective vision for the Greater Pittsburgh Region. Our Agenda calls for a region in which all residents are active + engaged through:

  • Policies, programs and initiatives that help voters become more engaged and knowledgeable
  • Opportunities to engage with elected officials and influence public policy
  • Equitable legislative districts that fairly represent all voting populations

A fair, citizen-led, independent redistricting commission would advance all of the above goals. In 2017, PUMP became a supporting organization of Fair Districts PA, and we fully support the call for the formation of an independent citizens redistricting commission that is open and transparent. As Draw the Lines PA’s redistricting competition has demonstrated, Pennsylvanians are energized to engage with and learn about the redistricting process. They’ve shown that citizens are capable of creating fair and equitable maps that represent the interests of voters and citizens – NOT of elected officials.

Politicians across political parties, in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, have taken advantage of the power to draw political boundaries and used it to manipulate the political process in their favor. These actions breach the trust that voters place in our elected officials and contribute to so many citizens feeling disempowered. We heard this loud and clear during our community engagement process as our constituents repeatedly expressed frustrations regarding voter disenfranchisement. Indeed, far too many citizens have come to believe that their votes no longer really count.

A citizen-led redistricting commission would be a long-term solution to respond to the needs of citizens, ensure government accountability, and challenge the climate of political apathy that too often keeps people from being civically engaged. Fair Districts PA found that states that have a citizen commission “have seen improvements in accountability, representation, competitiveness and voter trust.” We must walk this path in Pennsylvania. By inviting citizens into the governing process, Pennsylvania can restore the trust between citizens and our government and encourage a more vibrant, active, and equitable Pennsylvania.

Who do you believe should draw, change, or approve the maps in Pennsylvania? (Note: These responsibilities can belong to different groups.)

PUMP believes that maps should be drawn and approved by an independent citizens’ redistricting commission. Generally speaking, we support the approach and process outlined in HB 22 (as drafted and referred to committee on April 11, 2019) which also provides roles for the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Supreme Court. Given the redistricting track record of legislatures in Pennsylvania and throughout the country and the potential for abuse, we would be highly skeptical of any role afforded to the legislature in regards to drawing, changing, or approving maps.

What types of criteria or values do you believe should be prioritized in the redistricting process in Pennsylvania? (Note: These can include, for example: compactness and equal population between districts, but there are numerous others.)

The redistricting process should be driven by the value of equity. The goal should be to create districts that fairly represent all voting populations. Districts should be competitive and fairly reflect the diversity of the region in which they exist; they should not isolate or dilute voters based on any identifying characteristic, including race, income, or political affiliation, among other characteristics. The process should be open and transparent to ensure accountability and provide avenues for the general public to provide comment and feedback.

Please submit any other thoughts, questions, concerns, or comments not included in the prior responses.

Thank you for the work that the Redistricting Reform Commission is doing to engage Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth in the process of creating a redistricting system that works for all.