(HARRISBURG) – The Senate voted today to adopt historic, bipartisan legislation that changes the way legislative and Congressional districts are created, according to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), who supported the measure.
“This bill makes extraordinary changes and moves the issue in the right direction – into the hands of the people,” Senator Corman said. “The legislature has stood up and is giving back the power to the people.”
The Senate voted 35-14 to 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 or appointed officials, lobbyists and legislative staff would be prohibited from serving on the commission.
“Let’s embrace change and the opportunity to allow the voters of Pennsylvania to decide, giving all citizens a stronger voice in their state government,” Senator Corman said. “This bill is the result of a groundswell of public support for changing how we redistrict in Pennsylvania.”
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.
The makeup of the commission will reflect 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, Senator Corman said.
Members of the commission would be appointed by the Governor and Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Members of the commission must be confirmed by a super-majority of the General Assembly.
The legislation 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.
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.
“We as legislators make suggestions for changes to the constitution,” Senator Corman said. “The voters make the final decision. An important thing to remember is that doing nothing means accepting the status quo.”
Senate Bill 22 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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