Monroeville balks at supporting citizen-led legislative redistricting proposal
Monroeville Council delayed voting last week on a resolution expressing support for a statewide initiative to change Pennsylvania's legislative redistricting process.
The measure urges the state Legislature to establish, via a voter referendum, the Citizens Commission for Legislative and Congressional Redistricting, which would be responsible for redrawing senate and congressional lines following the 2020 Census.
Groups such as Fair Districts PA are advocating for redistricting changes. Doug Webster, 75, of Monroeville, a spokesperson for the statewide group, told council at a recent meeting that governments must team up to tell legislators they want redistricting reform.
“We're building the evidence that Pennsylvanians support change,” he said.
Webster was bewildered after council's decision to delay what he sees as a no-brainer.
“When you talk about gerrymandering, people understand it and they think it's wrong,” Webster said. “I'm mystified as to what is controversial about that.”
Monroeville Councilman Eric Poach, who motioned to table the resolution, said after the meeting he wants more time to review the issue.
“It sounds too important to just make an uninformed decision,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Greg Erosenko voted against delaying the vote.
“That is a political issue. I don't believe (council) should get involved with anything political. That's not our job,” he said. “Our job is to deal with the municipality, the residents, public safety, our roads — the whole nine yards. That is a political statement, and I don't believe it's in our job purview.”
Council's next voting meeting is July 10.
According to Fair District PA's website, 277 governments, including cities, boroughs and counties have passed similar resolutions supporting the initiative. Another 164 are in progress.
In Allegheny County, seven cities and boroughs have passed resolutions and 13 are in progress.
The state Senate was on track early last week to send to the House its highly debated bill that would create the 11-member citizens commission. The legislature and governor would appoint members. Most debate on the bill was devoted to an amendment, which seeks to elect appellate judges by regional district, instead of statewide.
Webster said he hopes legislators in both chambers can pass a bill by mid-July to have a commission set up to draw the new district lines after the 2020 Census.
If that happens, the state's constitution requires the bills to pass again in both chambers. The earliest Pennsylvanians could vote on the changes would be in 2019's general election, he said.
“But the proponents would want a vote in 2020 because that's a presidential election,” Webster said.