April 2, 2021
Legislative Redistricting Commission: Mapmaker wanted

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the five-member group mandated by the state Constitution to draw Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate districts this year, is looking to the public to hire it’s critical fifth member, who’ll chair the Commission and could significantly influence how open and participatory the process will be. This is great news; it's a move that we've been calling for and an incredible opportunity for one Pennsylvanian. Here are details on how to apply. One caveat: The first four LRC members — the Democratic and Republican leaders of the General Assembly — must agree on the fifth member, and if they can’t, the choice goes to the state Supreme Court. Whoever makes the decision, they should choose a Pennsylvanian with integrity, independence and civic-commitment. Learn more from Draw the Lines and apply!
  • The Voteswagon’s revving up again: The Great Pennsylvania 2021 Voteswagon Tour kicks off Monday (4/5), when our famous VW van will start its journey to communities across the Commonwealth to push for an open redistricting process. The Voteswagon will spotlight the iconic landmarks, attractions, and novelties that charm the Keystone State. First stop: Lancaster County. Here’s the itinerary.
May 18 primary coming up fast

The statutory 50-day window for mail-in voting began on Monday but many if not all county election boards are still waiting for finalized candidate lists or other balloting materials. In Philadelphia, voters who requested mail-in ballots shouldn’t expect to receive them until the last week of April. But you can begin to get ready: Our 2021 Voter Guide has rundowns on the offices and ballot questions you’ll vote on, as well as lists of candidates in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties. And our BYOBallot tool will soon be up and running. Type in your address and you’ll find full information on all the races on your ballot. Confused about judicial candidates? Check the PA Bar Association for appellate-court recommendations and the Philadelphia Bar Association for ratings on Common Pleas and Municipal Court candidates.
For the People Act: “An unwieldy menu of mandates” 

To counter Republican-led efforts in state legislatures to place more restrictions on voters, many congressional Democrats are moving to advance the For the People Act (HR1) — a massive bill that would enshrine in federal law a litany of voting, ethics, campaign finance and redistricting policies widely lauded at the state level. Republican opposition was expected, but even Democratic officeholders and election officials have reservations about the bill's scope and complexities. Ohio State University law professor Ned Foley, a highly-regarded election expert, calls the bill an “intrusive and unnecessary federal overreach into state management of elections” in a Washington Post op-ed. Instead, Foley wants Congress to focus on the proposed reworking of the 1965 voting-rights act named for John Lewis. “It hews to the federal government’s essential role in protecting the franchise from racial discrimination,” as Foley writes, “and would define the floor below which no state can go, to satisfy the basic standard of giving all citizens a sufficient opportunity to vote.”
  • For the For the People Act: NYU’s Brennan Center says the bill would “transform our democracy by making it fairer and more inclusive” in its explainer of the 800-page measure.
  • Against the For the People Act: The libertarian-leaning think tank R Street calls it “a direct attack on free speech and federalism.”
Caught our eye
On our radar
The primary problem: The Fulcrum reports on a new study finding that just 10% of voters cast ballots in primaries that ultimately decided the winners of 83% of House seats. These "safe" seats are in districts that are reliably retained by the same party in nearly every election, so the real competition is not in the general election but in the primary.
It’s official: There won’t be any changes to PA election laws before the May 18 primary, House State Government Committee chair Seth Grove (R-York) told the AP. Grove said his goal remains to get “election law done in time for the General Election.”
Rules for outside money for election boards?: Three GOP state Reps. introduced a bill to prohibit county election boards from directly accepting funding from nongovernmental sources to pay for election expenses. Such grants would have to be distributed across the state based on voting population.
Early voting in NJ: Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed legislation Tuesday mandating early, in-person voting for all statewide elections beginning with this year’s June 8 gubernatorial primary.
Reprieve for the Morning Call? The Allentown paper reports that a “mystery bidder” willing to pay up to $40m to keep it from being sold to a hedge fund sees the Call and the community it serves as providing a foundation for a sustainable business for years to come.
New DOS chief: Gov. Tom Wolf has nominated veteran North Carolina election administrator Veronica Degraffenreid to replace Kathy Boockvar as Secretary of State. Degraffenreid has been acting Secretary since February.
Losing faith in government? Look to your town council: In a refreshing variant to the old saying that “there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole,” The Inquirer finds across-the-aisle cooperation and comity in municipal buildings across PA, despite deep differences on national issues.
Pass a civics test or else: Rep. Karen Boback (R-Luzerne) has proposed a bill to require high-school students to pass a test similar to the one given to naturalization applicants to graduate.
Judicial Candidate Forums
Tues., April 6, 6-7:30 pm (Superior Court)
Mon., April 19, 6:30-8 PM (Commonwealth Court)

Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is partnering with C70 and other organizations around the state for forums with the candidates for Pennsylvania's Superior and Commonwealth courts. (A Supreme Court forum took place last month. Watch it here.) Other sponsoring organizations include the Dauphin County Library System, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania,  the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Allegheny County Bar Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association. Register for the Superior Court forum and the Commonwealth Court forum.
R Street Webinar: Exploring Electoral Innovation: Righting Electoral Dysfunction with Healthy Competition
Tues., April 13, 12 pm

In the wake of the 2020 election, many ideas have been proposed to reform the electoral process, and some have actually passed via ballot measure. In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2, the “Top-Four Ranked-Choice Voting and Campaign Finance Laws Initiative,” implemented multiple reforms to the state’s primary and general election processes. But will this initiative make much of a difference? How might we expect legislators’ behavior to change in response? Jonathan Bydlak, of the R Street Institute talks about the potentially significant changes set in motion by the initiative with Katherine Gehl, author of “The Politics Industry” and the founder of The Institute for Political Innovation, and Scott Kendall, the creator of Alaska Ballot Measure 2. Register.
Webinar series: The Future of American Elections
March 2 - May 25, 4 pm

Beginning March 2 and running through May 25, join FairVote for a democracy-reform webinar series on ranked-choice voting, “The Future of American Elections.” First up: “What Is Ranked-Choice Voting?” Subsequent webinars will focus on RCV at universities; gerrymandering (what to expect in 2021 and how to avoid it in 2031); the electoral reform imperative to addressing the polarization crisis; RCV movement-building; and the Fair Representation Act. RSVP.
Regional Forums: End Prison Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania
March 22-April 17

People in prison aren’t allowed to vote, yet the Census counts them in the areas they’re imprisoned, not the areas they come from. At the forums, individuals and family members directly affected by mass incarceration and loss of representation will share their stories, while speakers from host organizations provide background to put those stories into context. Co-hosts: Decarceration Bloc; Free the Ballot; Straight Ahead!; Abolitionist Law Center; Fair Districts PA; League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania; PA Council of Churches Advocacy; and the ACLU of Pennsylvania. For a preview, watch a live-streamed forum hosted by some of the same organizations on January 6, 2021. Register.
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