August 3rd, 2021
Because of unprecedented attention from Pennsylvania's voters, the Commonwealth's redistricting process must pursue a similar degree of unparalleled transparency and citizen engagement. The Roadmap to Transparent Redistricting offers guidance to the General Assembly and the Legislative Reapportionment Committee to achieve this ambitious goal. It uses lessons from large-scale public engagement initiatives, including the 2019 Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission and three-year long Draw the Lines PA mapping competition.
1. Publish a preliminary mapping plan (or plans)
The preliminary map(s) should be created while attempting to adhere to the traditional redistricting criteria established in the 2018 Supreme Court precedent. Congressional districts should be: “...composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.”
Ensure the preliminary map complies with the Voting Rights Act
Consider public input submitted to date via online survey and citizen-drawn maps. Advise members of the public that specific input regarding well-established communities or regions of interest (e.g., Laurel Highlands, Lehigh Valley, interstate corridors) may be most valuable to map drawers given the size of congressional districts
2. Gather public feedback on preliminary mapping plan(s)
Both the LRC and the House and State Government Committees should hold at least four public meetings in different regions around the state to solicit public feedback on their respective preliminary maps. The most constructive feedback will be focused on specific features of the maps, how they would adjust certain boundaries and why. Soliciting a ranking or preference of the maps (if more than one) and accepting commentary on commonly-used metrics derived from the maps may also be instructive.
The LRC and the State Gov't committees should optimize meetings for quality and efficiency, including making educational materials available prior to the meeting on its website. These materials, plus notice of the hearings, should be published at least 14 days in advance of a hearing. Special care should be taken to ensure that marginalized or underserved constituencies are represented in the hearings. Each meeting should offer the opportunity to participate in-person and virtually, and the meeting should be streamed live and recorded. Meetings should take place in the evenings, to allow for greater participation for those working during the day.
Individual Pennsylvanians should have the ability to comment in writing through a survey form on the state’s redistricting website. The data received should be analyzed for common themes.
3. Generate a narrative that justifies the map
Both the preliminary map(s) and the final approved map should be accompanied by a narrative that “tells the story of the map.” This accompanying narrative should provide a description of each of the 17, 50, and 203 districts and answer the following questions:
- How does this map comply with the traditional redistricting standards set out by the Pennsylvania Constitution or Supreme Court precedent (population equality, compactness and contiguity, avoiding political subdivision splits)?
- How did mapmakers incorporate public feedback from the public hearings and the trends or proposals raised in the map submissions made by citizen mappers?
4. Accessibility and basic transparency
The House and Senate State Government committees should publish a joint, bipartisan website to inform the public throughout the congressional redistricting process.
The website should include: (1) A submission form to collect public input, including citizen-drawn maps and accompanying map stories; (2) The GIS shape and district index files of the preliminary and final maps; (3) All datasets that are used to produce the preliminary and final maps; (4) The names and affiliations of the consultants who are drawing the maps, copies of the contracts that describe their engagement, and the software they are using.
All materials and information should be translated into at least Spanish (currently required by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act) and Chinese (which may soon be covered under the VRA in Philadelphia). Other language interpretation and translation, including ASL, should be covered to the greatest extent possible, especially for public hearings in regions with larger Limited English Proficient populations.