Today, any meaningful gerrymandering reform coming out of the Pennsylvania House has died and our democracy may have gone with it. If House Republicans decide to go forward with the language they just added to House Bill 722, it will ensure Republicans permanent control of the Pennsylvania legislature for decades to come.
House Bill 722 aimed to change Pennsylvania’s constitution by creating an independent citizen-led gerrymandering commission. That language was stripped from the original bill and replaced with a legislative driven gerrymandering commission that would give Republicans a 4-2 majority when it comes to redrawing the maps in 2022. The amendment will allow one member from the 4 legislative caucuses and then allow the House and the Senate to elect one more member. The new language would also remove the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s say in the issue and hand any gerrymandering cases to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The bill, however, was not voted out of committee but if Republicans were to go forward with this power grab, it would take them at least one more year to do so.
They would have to vote the bill out of committee and out of the House. The Senate would have to go through the same legislative process, and since this bill seeks to change Pennsylvania’s constitution, both chambers would have to repeat this process in the 2019-2020 session. Then the proposed constitutional amendment will be put on the ballot and decided upon Pennsylvania voters. Republicans would be able to do this by the 2019 election, an off year, low voter turnout election. The Governor or the courts would have no say in this process because this is a change to the constitution.
It is up to us to make sure our democracy doesn’t die in darkness.