In Pennsylvania, legislators draw voting districts based on partisan politics to maximize their chances of being reelected, which minimizes the voice of the voters. During the 2019-20 legislative session, several state legislators introduced bills that would reform how legislative voting districts are drawn.
These bills had bipartisan support and more co-sponsors than any other bill introduced in the legislative session. A majority of Pennsylvanians support the reforms, but these bills never made it to the floor for a vote. How can this happen? The simple answer is the rules process used by the legislature. The first item of business during the first day of the legislative session is a package of rules for how the session will be controlled. The majority leaders of each chamber convene to set the rules of procedure, which are put forward for a vote without review or discussion.
In the last session, the ‘rules’ allowed only majority leaders and committee chairs of each chamber to determine which bills would be considered. A handful of legislators tell all other elected legislators what bills they can vote on. These leaders were not interested in reforming how districts are drawn, so the bills for reform did not get a vote. If your representative is not a part of the small group setting the rules, your voice is silenced.
Step one in creating a process for fairly drawing districts is to reform the rules. Tell your legislator to object to rules that prevent highly supported issues from being heard.