ICYMI: That didn't take long; partisan squabbling over new redistricting panel begins

Chris Satullo| December 5th, 2018

Photo: David Thornburgh
David Thornburgh | Image Credit: DTL Staff

Last Wednesday, Gov. Wolf named David Thornburgh, CEO of the Committee of Seventy and leader of Draw the Lines PA, to head a new advisory panel tasked with suggesting redistricting reforms. The commission is already caught in a partisan crossfire, as Republican leaders take aim.

 Here's PennLive.com's coverage of the back and forth.

Here's the take from Sara Ann Hughes, the statehouse reporter for the Incline.com and BillyPenn.com.

And here's a commentary from the dean of statehouse reporters, John Baer of Philly.com.  (You may need a subscription to see this one, depending on how often you dip into that website.)

Obviously, here at Draw the Lines we think David Thornburgh, whom we know well and respect greatly, is a wonderful choice to head this commission. 

 But we also get that a lot of political careers and partisan hopes are on the line whenever the topic is the shape of election districts. Lots of people are understandably nervous about change and anxious to be reassured that this commission will be fair-minded.

So, in that spirit, we'd like to offer one opinion and make one observation:

--  We work with and for the man whom Gov. Wolf named to lead this panel.  He shoots straight and abhors intense partisanship of any flavor. He also knows the issue inside, out and backwards.  And he believes in aerobic civic engagement that gathers as many legitimate voices as possible.

-- While it is true that the state Constitution gives legislative leaders a lead role in legislative redistricting, and tradition gives them a similar major hand in congressional redistricting, it is also true that all three maps (Congress, state Senate and state House) that Harrisburg produced in 2011 have been overturned by the state Supreme Court as unconstitutional. And, right now, the same redistricting process that produced those flawed maps is still in place.  Looking ahead to 2021, we're pretty sure most Pennsylvanians do not want to see the next round of maps get tied up in the courts or redrawn by some professor who doesn't even live in the state.

So isn't it reasonable to say: We need a better process and in that pursuit we need to hear from all Pennsylvanians—red, blue, purple, and otherwise?

Let’s all take a deep breath and encourage the Republican leadership to find a way to engage in and contribute to the important workings of this advisory  commission.