The proposal — letting a nonpartisan citizens commission, rather than politicians, draw lines for electoral districts — isn’t novel. It was presented by Carol Kuniholm, the executive director of Fair Districts PA, last week in Center City at a forum that focused on gerrymandering — a practice in which a party in power contorts legislative and congressional boundaries to its electoral advantage. Complaints about gerrymandering, a name derived from a 19th century Massachusetts governor and U.S. vice president who was a notorious practitioner, date to nearly the founding of the republic, notes David Thornburgh, head of the nonpartisan political watchdog group the Committee of Seventy. What is different these days is that the practices and the efforts to change them have reached perhaps unprecedented levels, said Thornburgh, who participated in that forum at the Pyramid Club, 52 floors above the streets of Center City, which included business and civic leaders. And this has been a particularly brisk period.
Lawsuits have been filed all over the country, and the Pyramid Club session was held on the evening after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on gerrymandering, and the night before the commonwealth considered a petition on redistricting.
“People are really fed up with how the parties have manipulated this process in a way that doesn’t seem to be serving the people,” Thornburgh said in an interview on Monday.
And Pennsylvania, a political battleground state, has become a battleground in the debate over gerrymandering.