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Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh event will explore letting citizens draw congressional districts

| Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 5:09 p.m.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new map of the state's congressional district boundaries earlier this year.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new map of the state's congressional district boundaries earlier this year.

Three members of California's Citizens Redistricting Commission will talk Thursday night in Pittsburgh about how the commission works in their state and how a similar proposal might pan out in Pennsylvania.

A proposal to create an 11-member citizen redistricting commission is moving toward a vote in the Pennsylvania Senate after it cleared the State Government Committee on Tuesday. The commission would put citizens in charge of drawing new maps every 10 years instead of leaving the process to legislators.

Fair Districts PA, which has pushed for the change, is one of the groups hosting the Pittsburgh event, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The event is open to the public.

“The goal is to educate the public; the goal is to bring these people from California to talk about how they were successful; the goal is to provide the public with updates on what's going on and what the next steps might be,” said David Misra, a Community College of Allegheny County professor who is volunteering with Fair Districts PA.

The push for changes comes after the state Supreme Court ruled early this year that the state's congressional district map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Under the old map, Republicans held 13 of the state's 18 districts.

The court instituted a new map drawn with help from a Stanford Law School professor that is expected to be more favorable for Democrats.

Fair Districts PA supports the Pennsylvania redistricting proposal, which mimics California's system. The Pennsylvania Senate amended the original proposal to give lawmakers more say in who is selected for the group.

The change would require a constitutional amendment. To be in place by the 2020 Census and the redistricting process that will follow, the proposal would need to be approved before this year's session ends July 8 and then approved again during next year's session.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have suggested they support changes to the redistricting process, fueling optimism among advocates that the process could change.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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