Senate Approves Sweeping Changes to Redistricting Process

HARRISBURG – The Senate voted today to adopt historic legislation that changes the way that legislative and Congressional districts are created, according to Senator John R. Gordner (R-27), who supported the measure.

Senate Bill 22 would create an independent redistricting commission made up of 11 Pennsylvania citizens who would be responsible for drawing the boundaries of legislative and Congressional districts. Elected officials, candidates for public office, lobbyists and legislative staff would be prohibited from serving on the commission.

“The goal of Senate Bill 22 is to give all citizens a stronger voice in their state government, including the way that their representatives are elected,” said Senator Gordner. “This bill is the result of years of hard work with input from numerous individuals and advocacy groups.”

Under SB 22, seven out of the 11 commissioners must vote to approve the maps, including at least two Democrats, two Republicans and two members who are not affiliated with either major political party.  Members of the commission would be appointed by the Governor and Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives.  All members of the commission must be confirmed by a super-majority of both chambers of the General Assembly.

The makeup of the commission will be required to represent the geographic, gender and racial diversity of the state. The maps would be required to be created without the use of partisan data, prior election results or the addresses of specific individuals to prevent any undue political influence in the process.

SB 22 also changes the way that appellate court judges are elected.  In current practice, members of the state Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court are elected via a statewide vote. Senate Bill 22 would divide the state into judicial districts to ensure a broader range of regional interests are represented on Pennsylvania’s highest courts.  Currently, five of the seven Supreme Court justices are from only two of the 67 counties in the state.

Because the legislation would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, it must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

“I am hopeful that we can give the people of Pennsylvania the final say on how legislative, Congressional and judicial districts are drawn,” Senator Gordner added.

Senate Bill 22 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Mike Stephens (717) 787-8928