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June 25, 2008

Will Pennsylvania Redo Redistricting?

posted by Alan Greenblatt

Calif_redisIt's already coming on crunch time for advocates of changing redistricting practices in time for the next round of map-making, set to start, of course, after the 2010 census.

In Pennsylvania, taking redistricting responsibilities away from legislators and giving it to an independent board would require a constitutional amendment. That means the legislature would have to endorse such a change in two consecutive sessions, followed by statewide voter approval. That, in turn, means the legislature has to act before its current session ends this summer.

That, finally, means that the odds of success are slim. Governor Ed Rendell has endorsed such a change and one version passed the Senate State Government Committee last week. But nothing's moving in the House and legislative leaders, unsurprisingly, aren't jumping at the chance to change a system that helps keep them in power, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Pennsylvania has had a fair amount of turnover recently in its legislative ranks, due to a pay-raise scandal three years ago. But most incumbents are safe. Tim Potts of Democracy Rising PA tells the Inquirer that 100 House seats, about half the total, haven't changed party hands in 40 years.

That kind of statistic keeps reformers motivated. But I can't remember how many times I've written about efforts at changing redistricting systems that ultimately go nowhere. I guess there'll be a few more between now and 2011.

In California, a redistricting measure backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger qualified for the ballot just last week. Schwarzenegger apparently is undaunted by the defeat of his last such attempt, back in 2005.


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