Pennsylvania's system for redistricting was initiated by the constitutional convention of 1967-68 ("Pa. is losing its way," May 29). This voter-approved change was hailed by press and governmental reform groups as critically important.
Forty years later, there is undoubtedly room for some improvement, and many government reform groups coalesced around House Bill 2420, which was referred to my committee only weeks ago. Sharing their hope for reform, I scheduled a vote on the bill.
However, after I analyzed the bill more thoroughly and contacted the Legislative Reference Bureau, the office that would be charged with implementing the new procedures, I realized that House Bill 2420 is not reform.
First, the bureau's director informed me that his office did not have the expertise to carry out the requirements of this legislation. More important, the bill would give full authority to a bureaucrat to make hundreds of critical decisions creating new districts, eliminating existing ones, and significantly altering many more without any public notice. With this bureaucrat accountable to the General Assembly, why would anyone consider this reform?
Additionally, House Bill 2420 proposes that disagreements between redistricting plans be settled by casting lots, essentially reducing this decision to a coin toss.
Finally, the bill has an absolute ban on the use of historical electoral statistics in formulating a legislative district plan. Referencing these statistics is the only way to draw districts that are competitive between the political parties - something reformers have said is important.
While I commend The Inquirer for championing changes to the redistricting process, it must be done right. I am willing to examine alternative proposals to improve the process, but passing any bill, details be damned, is not reform.
State Rep. Babette Josephs