Kitsy McNulty speaks at a DTL event at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. | Image Credit: Rachel Colker

I grew up in a conservative Republican family with a father who had been a socialist in his youth. In young adulthood I became a Democrat. As a result of this background, I’ve always firmly believed there’s more than one side to every story.

My political interests have focused on protecting the democratic process so that an exchange of a variety of viewpoints will allow the best ideas to rise to the top.

Watching the Watergate scandal unfold, I was impressed by the constructive response of John Gardner, the Republican Secretary of Education in the Johnson administration. He founded Common Cause, a new concept he called a “citizens’ lobby,” because he felt people from all aspects of the political spectrum should be able to work in common to support and safeguard democratic institutions.

Reforming redistricting is a good example of just such an effort.

Five years ago, Common Cause PA formed a project team to combat gerrymandering. I am now the chair of that team.

Two years ago several reform groups began a grassroots effort called Fair Districts PA, and I’m also a Local Group coordinator for FDPA.

When I heard about Draw the Lines, I was very excited about engaging citizens in mapping contests—democracy in action! Voting districts are supposed to belong to citizens, and they should be drawn to select the politicians who will best represent citizens’ concerns and their communities.

Democratic institutions are facing threats today as profound as the challenges during Watergate. It’s easy to respond cynically, but Draw the Lines represents a far more effective approach. John Gardner would applaud.

Gerrymandering results in districts that benefit incumbent officeholders rather than the citizens. Safe districts make accountability to voters next to impossible, and the current dysfunction is the result.   

Commissioners from the California Citizens Commission have shown that citizen commissioners can check their partisanship at the door in favor of designing fair representation for all.

I’m going to keep working to make something similar happen in Pennsylvania.