Making Democracy Work

Issues

Current issues of concern

Information about current issues of concern to all Pennsylvanians.

Hot Topics: Redistricting

EFFORTS TO END GERRYMANDERING CONTINUE

In November, 2018, Governor Wolf established a bipartisan redistricting reform commission to examine ways to improve the state's redistricting process. David Thornburgh, Executive Director of the Committee of Seventy, was named chair of the 15 member commission. The commissions will create a plan for redistricting over the next nine months. The commission will hold six public hearings to be held around the state. Governor Wolf said, "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."

A note about the problem: At this time Pennsylvania is near the very bottom of electoral fairness. In a PA House legislative proposal for HB 722, April 2017, the situation was detailed. "According to a recent study by the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), Pennsylvania ranks third worst in the nation for the fairness of its electoral boundaries -- only Wisconsin and North Carolina scored worse. When politicians manipulate district lines to benefit themselves and their parties, the public always loses."

REMINDER: The recent court decision on redistricting is a temporary fix and only applies to the US Congressional Districts.

May 2019 Update:
Governor Wolf's Commission is currently holding meetings across the State. Members and citizens are exploring options to curb gerrymandering. An additional meeting has been scheduled due to the interest shown. It is estimated that the Commission will conclude the hearings in the fall of 2019.

LEGISLATIVE EFFORT
At this writing, May 2019, Fair Districts PA has been working with Representatives Steve Samuelson (D - Northampton Co.) and Tom Murt (R - Montgomery Co./Philadelphia Co.), on two bills, each featuring an independent commission.

Representative Murt is the prime sponsor of HB 22 which would amend the PA Constitution to create an independent redistricting commission for legislative redistricting (PA House and Senate districts).

Representative Samuelson is the prime sponsor of HB 23, a statute that would amend the PA election code to create an independent commission for congressional redistricting, with additional safeguards and constraints for both the congressional and legislative redistricting process. HB 23 does NOT require a constitutional amendment.

The independent commission created by these bills would consist of 11 voters selected at random by the Secretary of the Commonwealth from prescreened pools of qualified applicants: four Republicans, four Democrats, and three not registered with either major political party. Both bills include eligibility criteria prohibiting certain types of individuals from being appointed.

Find more detail about the bills as well as links to cosponsor memos at <https://www.fairdistrictspa.com/updates/two-bills-one-commission>.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?
All the information you need to contact your legislator to invite support for HB 22 and 23 is available on the Fair Districts PA website: <https://www.fairdistrictspa.com/takeaction/contact-your-legislator>.

CITIZENS WORKING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
Fair Districts PA is a nonpartisan, citizen-led statewide coalition working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair. For complete coverage of the effort, visit <http://www.fairdistrictspa.com>.

Note A number of PA municipalities have passed resolutions supporting the effort to make redistricting fair.

Note: Every ten years voting districts are redrawn. The next time our voting districts will be redrawn will happen after the 2020 census.

Hot Topics: Protecting Voting Rights

UPDATE, MAY 2019
HR1, For the People Act 2019, was passed by the House and sent to the Senate. Now Senate Democrats have crafted their version of HR1 which is similar in most aspects but has a few minor differences. HOWEVER, Speaker McConnell has declared that he will not bring this bill to the floor. PERIOD. Senate Democrats are understandably frustrated and are attempting to garner support from their Republican colleagues. There is some talk of making the issue of protecting voter rights a campaign issue for 2020.

What's in HR1?
HR1, For the People Act 2019, is a package of voting reforms aimed at guaranteeing voting rights for all citizens. The major essential elements of the bill are:
1. Expand Voter Registration by modernizing the registration process through expansion of automatic voter registration and online voter registration.

2. Implement Fair Redistricting by ending gerrymandering once and for all by creating fairly drawn maps.

3. Outlaw Voter Purging. Prohibiting illegal voter roll purging will ensure that eligible voters will not find themselves wrongfully stripped of the right to vote.

4. Restore the VRA - the Voting Rights Act. Restoring the Voting Rights Act will strengthen our elections by cutting back the obstructive laws that have kept eligible voters from exercising their right at the ballot box.

For more details see <http://www.lwv.org>.

URGE YOUR SENATORS TO HAVE THIS LEGISLATION SENT TO THE FLOOR.

Hot Topics: Should We Abolish the Electoral College?

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the direct-popular-vote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government. The League of Women Voters believes, therefore, that the Electoral College should be abolished.

None of the Founders' original intentions remain relevant today. The Electoral College is an imperfect system that is damaging to our democracy.

The Electoral College -

  • Puts the choice of president in the hands of voters in only a few so- called swing states;
  • Decreases participation in our democracy;
  • Polarizes our electorate into "red" and "blue;"
  • Has resulted five times in a presidential winner who did not receive a majority of the votes.

How Can the Electoral College be Abolished?
1. By constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment has been introduced many times. January 3, 2019 House Joint Resolution 7 "proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to abolish the electoral college and to provide for the direct election of the President and Vice-President of the United States" was introduced by several representatives.

2. A constitutional amendment can take years to pass. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an acceptable interim solution. States agree to give all their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. To date 15 states have signed the compact for a total of 189 votes. In order to go into effect, the compact must have a minimum of 270 votes.

Hot Topics: Does My Vote Count?

MONTGOMERY COUNTY SOLVED THE PROBLEM
NEW VOTING MACHINES ARE HERE AND BEING TESTED.

The new machines will be used in the May Primary. For new voting machine demonstrations, see the Montgomery County website and click on Conversations with Commissioners.

Videos and other voter education materials will be available online at <http://www.montcopa.org/voterservices> and will be made available at the office of state legislators, municipal buildings and libraries as soon as they become available.

For more information, <https://www.citizensforbetterelections.org>