Bill Gross, a representative from and advocate for Fair Districts PA joins us this morning.
Fair Districts PA is a nonpartisan, statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair. The organization was founded in January 2016 by representatives from the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, Committee of Seventy, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, and others concerned about accountable government.
Today, Fair Districts PA is officially a project of the League of Women Voters or Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. It receives no funding from political action committees (PACs) or political parties, and is funded and endorsed by a wide range of local and statewide organizations and individuals across the Commonwealth.
Their dedicated membership is comprised or Pennsylvanians from all walks of life, united by the conviction that free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. They believe Pennsylvania needs to reform its redistricting rules to promote competitive elections and partisan fairness—so that our government truly is of, by, and for the people.
To accomplish these goals, Fair Districts PA holds informational events, drive outreach to lawmakers and the media, and help the public take action. Our current focus is to replace the current partisan redistricting process with a transparent and accountable process before the release of the 2020 U.S. Census.
Fair Districts PA is part of the League of Women Voters of the United State People Powered Fair Maps campaign, a national redistricting program of the League of Women Voters focused on creating fair political maps nationwide.
Fair Districts PA has grown quickly from a handful of volunteers to a network of local groups, regional support teams, active working groups and almost 100 trained speakers reaching audiences large and small in every corner of the state. FDPA volunteers come from across the state and bring a wealth of experience, expertise, and varying political perspectives.
Fair districts must:
- Adhere to all Constitution and Voting Rights Act requirements.
- Make all districts as equal in population as possible within an established minimal range of deviation.
- Respect city and county subdivisions, natural geographic features, and communities of interest.
- Encourage geographical compactness.
- Not be drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against a political party or candidate.
Redistricting reform should:
- Assign the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners, nor members of their immediate families, may be government or political party officials.
- Ensure the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation.
- Establish strict timelines for redistricting after each U.S. Census.
- Address other causes of redistricting unfairness.
A core part of his presentation revolved around his Power Point presentaiton. This informative document can be viewed on Dropbox at:
The ultimate goal of Fair Districts PA is to ensure districts allow the voters to choose their elected officials rather than letting politicians in Harrisburg “slice and dice” the census numbers allowing them to choose their voters. This will require a more transparent process, public engagement, and clear, measurable map-drawing standards.
The Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA) has all three.
What will LACRA give us?
Greater Transparency and More Public Engagement
- A user-friendly website for free public access to data, maps and all redistricting information
- Multiple statewide public hearings before and after redistricting plans are approved
Meetings that are all subject to the Open Meetings Law and hearings that must
- be live streamed
- held at convenient times for the public
- accommodate for multiple languages
- The ability to submit a redistricting plan or part of a plan which the committee must review (this applies to every Pennsylvanian)
- A written report of decisions, rationale and process
Clear and Measurable Redistricting Criteria
- Mandates compact and contiguous federal and state districts
- Adds enforceable limits on splitting counties beyond what is required by population and bans dividing voting precincts
- Protects racial and language minorities against discrimination in the mapping process
- Outlaws district plans designed to protect incumbents or discriminate against political parties
- Keeping communities of interest intact
- Responding to voter preferences as measured by widely accepted tests
- Conforming districts to natural boundaries like rivers, mountains, etc.
Several members remarked that Bill's was one of the most interesting and informative speakers we hosted in a long while.