Professor reflects on effort to create fair congressional maps for Pennsylvania

September 09, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After nearly a year of work, the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission issued its report with recommendations to ensure that fair congressional maps are drawn for the commonwealth after the 2020 Census.

Lee Ann Banaszak, professor of political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State, was part of the commission and spent several months earlier this year traveling the state to talk with residents about gerrymandering.

Banaszak joins the Democracy Works podcast this week to discuss what she heard and how the commission weighed all the factors involved in creating election maps. Democracy Works is produced by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and WPSU Penn State.

“Uniformly, people were concerned about the way the redistricting process affected the way democracy works in Pennsylvania,” Banaszak said. “They were concerned that the current redistricting process created difficulties for voters, created difficulties for candidates and really depressed both turnout but also increased the mistrust of the legislature over the long term.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf chartered the commission last fall to ensure transparency and accuracy in the next round of legislative redistricting in 2021. The commission recommended creating an 11-member independent citizens commission to draw maps and submit them for approval to the state legislature.

States including California and Arizona follow a similar model, and the Pennsylvania commission heard support for it at the nine public hearings they held throughout the state. Banaszak said that support for the commission extended across partisan lines.

“Among citizens, there was general agreement that the process was problematic. Although Republicans and Democrats might see different parts of the process as problematic, they agree that the process currently going on is problematic,” Banaszak said. “There was uniform support for the idea of an independent commission somewhere in that process.”

The commission's report is available on the Pennsylvania Department of State website. The Pennsylvania House State Government Committee will hold a public hearing on the commission’s report at 9 a.m. Sept. 18 in the Irvis Office Building in Harrisburg.

Listen to the interview with Banaszak at wpsu.org/democracy or by searching “Democracy Works” in Apple Podcasts or any podcast app.

  • Lee Ann Banaszak, professor and head of the Department of Political Science

    Lee Ann Banaszak, professor of political science and of women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State, was appointed to serve on the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission.

    IMAGE: Tamar London
Last Updated September 10, 2019