July 30, 2021
Redistricting by legislators: show you work

As the PA House State Government Committee began the public phase of the congressional redistricting process last week with its first hearing, we urged that public be the keyword. “First, we recommend that the House and Senate work together to develop a meaningful and efficient program of public engagement that offers multiple ways for citizens to participate and that distills common themes or points of feedback for map drawers,” C70 CEO David Thornburgh told legislators. But that’s not enough. Legislators should produce preliminary maps, explain why they drew lines the way they did and respond substantively to citizen feedback on them before they vote on the final maps. In other words: show your work.
  • About the lines: By law, congressional districts must be compact, contiguous, nearly equal in population, minimize the splitting of political subdivisions, and protect racial and language minority groups. But even state or federal law dictating such criteria does not guarantee they’ll be followed; and other legitimate factors may be raised by Pennsylvanians that should be incorporated into the final map. Mapping-drawing is complicated, as WHYY notes, but that shouldn’t preclude an open, fair, and public-driven process. Read Seventy’s full testimony.
  • Delayed timeline? States are scheduled to receive the population data they need for redistricting on Aug. 16, but the date could be delayed because of a lawsuit over how the Census Bureau counts people living in group settings.
Philly joins Tioga and York counties in rejecting audit scheme

The Philadelphia City Commissioners joined their counterparts in York and Tioga counties in rejecting PA Sen. Doug Mastriano’s demand that they turn over a laundry list of election equipment and materials to his committee for an Arizona-style “forensic examination” of Pennsylvania’s past two elections. So subpoenas will be forthcoming, Mastriano said—despite the PA Department of State’s memo prohibiting third-party access to voting systems and a U.S. Justice Department warning that mishandling of it (a distinct possibility in third-party audits) could violate federal law. Sen. Mastriano, who has the support of many legislative Republicans, remains undeterred. But Auditor General Timothy DeFoor, also a Republican, says the 2020 election was settled and his agency is looking forward. And former GOP Congressman Charlie Dent says it would be “a blunder of epic proportions. Why bring the Arizona clown show to Pennsylvania?”
  • Good audit, bad audit: In interviews with City & State PA, election experts from Center for Democracy and Technology, the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law Policy and NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice differentiate good audits from bad ones, and explain why Sen. Mastriano’s ill-advised proposal could force counties to purchase new voting equipment and foster even greater mistrust of future elections.
Caught our eye
Since 2019, CA, TX, FL, NY and PA have made numerous changes to their election rules. The Fulcrum is tracking 18 potential changes in every state and Washington, D.C.
On our radar
City finances OK (for now) PICA says: The PA financial watchdog approved the city’s latest five-year plan but flagged low cash reserves and upcoming labor costs as causes for concern. PICA’s legislative mandate is scheduled to end next year, but retaining it or something similar might not be a bad idea.
PA ethics-law review: House State Government Committee chair Seth Grove (R-York) announced a review of the state’s ethics laws in the wake of Rep. Margo Davidson’s arrest on theft and fraud charges. The Delaware County Democrat allegedly claimed per-diem expenses she didn’t incur and requested reimbursement for expenses her campaign committee had already covered.

What is voting? Pew finds a wide partisan divide on whether voting is a fundamental right or a privilege with responsibilities.
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Documentary screening: UnRepresented
Streaming Fri., July 30 and Sat., July 31
PBS World

UnRepresented is a new documentary that reveals the mechanisms that drive the cycle of corruption in Congress—giving political insiders enormous, unchecked power. The film explores how special interests bankroll political campaigns and relentlessly lobby to rig the system in their favor, all while following the letter of the law. Featuring Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig and former member of Congress Rep. Justin Amash, the film reveals both the inner workings and the dysfunctional nature of Congress as well as the powerful possibilities to reform our government to better represent the people. Watch on AppleTV, Google Play or Vudu.
PA Appellate Courts Candidate Forum
Mon., Sept. 20, 7 pm

Candidates for open seats on PA’s Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts appear in a virtual forum moderated by Maureen M. McBride, co-chair of the appellate division at Lamb McErlane PC. The event is sponsored by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the League of Women Voters of PA, the PA Bar Association, the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Allegheny County Bar Association. Register.
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