Chris Satullo| November 29th, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf today created a 15-member commission to recommend reforms on how Pennsylvania draws its congressional and state legislative election maps.
David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy and managing director of Draw the Lines PA, is the chair of the bipartisan panel.
"This commission will bring together diverse experts and citizens to explore ways that Pennsylvania could use policies, technology and data to curb gerrymandering and ensure fair maps,” Wolf said. “There has been significant bipartisan support for bringing more fairness to this process.'
The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice has said that the congressional and legislative districts approved in Harrisburg in 2011 made Pennsylvania one of America’s most extreme cases of partisan gerrymandering. (That congressional map has since been thrown our and replaced.)
The governor has asked the panel to recommend a “fair and transparent process for drawing congressional and legislative district maps that places the best interests of communities before the ambitions of a few, connected politicians.”
The panel’s work will include reviewing redistricting processes in other state and harvesting suggestions and feedback from Pennsylvania voters. After the 2020 census, districts nationwide will have to be redrawn.
Thornburgh created the Draw the Lines initiative, which for the first time puts a free, online mapping tool in the hands of Pennsylvanians so that they can show that they are ready, willing and able to take on this core work of democration, drawing election districts.
“I’m honored to be asked to serve,” Thornburgh said. “I will do my best to make sure that the commission listens well, encourages a vigorous debate, and comes to conclusions that are thoughtful and fair.”
The commission’s 15 members include two state senators and two state House members.
The 11 members appointed by the governor also include two other people with close Draw the Lines ties. Sharmain Matlack Turner, the head of the Urban Affairs Coalition in Philadelphia, is also a co-chair of Draw the Lines’ eastern region steering committee. (The other eastern chair is former Gov. Mark Schweiker.)
Amanda Holt, a Republican Lehigh County commissioner, is also on DTL’s eastern steering committee. She is also the inspiration for Draw the Lines, thanks to her demonstration of the power of the citizen mapper in 2011, when she successfully challenged new state legislative maps. The state Supreme Court agreed with her that the maps produced the Legislative Reapportionment Commission violated the state Constitution in the way they divided counties and municipalities and ordered them redrawn.
You can learn more about Holt’s work by watching this video.
Other members include:
Lee Ann Banaszak, head of the Department of Political Science at PennState
Charlie Dent, former longtime Republican congressman from the Lehigh Valley.
Kathy Dahlkemper, the Erie County executive.
Wes Pegden, a mathematics professor at Carnegie Mellon University who works on gerrygmandering
Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez, a leadership development professional who serves on Wolf's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs
Susan Carty, president of the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters.
Rev. Robert Johnson, a Philadelphia clergyman.
Robert Torres, Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth or designee