May 28, 2021
Redistricting underway: Senate Committee and LRC hold hearings

As Pennsylvania prepares to downsize from 18 to 17 congressional districts, the Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing focused on the criteria that should be followed in drawing the lines. Chair David Argall (R-Schuylkill) emphasized the need for “objective, well-defined criteria” to draw the maps and to avoid potential misinterpretations of legislative intent. In response, C70 CEO David Thornburgh testified to the importance of clear criteria and metrics, but stressed that public engagement and justification of proposed mapping plans are equally important. See Seventy’s written testimony. Several hours later, the Legislative Reapportionment Committee (LRC) responsible for drawing state House and Senate maps held its first organizing meeting to make initial staff appointments, an early and promising start for a commission that could be far more open and transparent than in prior years. Watch a recording of the hearing.
  • An end to prison gerrymandering? Most newsworthy in the LRC meeting was House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton’s (D-Philadelphia) call to change how prisoners are counted in the redistricting process. Incarcerated individuals are currently counted as residing in their cell, rather than at their previous address for redistricting purposes, which shifts political power away from their home communities. 
  • Draw the Lines yourself: C70's Draw the Lines’ competition ends on June 1st. Map your own districts!
Election reform (still) needed

The May 18 primary election, while largely successful, saw a number of counties encounter administrative issues, many of which were related to their new mail-in voting responsibilities. Such challenges have been expected as voters and election officials continue to adjust to widespread vote-by-mail, but the strain on counties under current law is adding to the challenge. The most burdensome condition of the status quo continues to be counties’ inability to process thousands of mail-in ballots before Election Day when they’re consumed with running scores if not hundreds of traditional polling places. It remains to be seen whether Republicans and Governor Wolf can negotiate a solution.
  • Corporate support for voting rights: Joining Gregory Deavens of Independence Blue Cross and Susan Jacobson, chair of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, C70’s David Thornburgh co-authored an op-ed in the Inquirer calling for business leaders across the nation to support and protect voting rights.
  • Weekend voting? An opinion piece in the Pennsylvania Capital Star argues that weekend voting is both more convenient and in line with most other major democracies.
Bad news for local news: hedge fund acquires remaining Tribune Publishing papers

Alden Global Capital closed its $633 million Tribune Publishing deal on Monday and now controls several of the nation’s top daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, and Allentown’s Morning Call. This comes after local investors failed to block the deal. The deal, combined with Alden’s ownership of the MediaNews Group newspaper chain, makes the hedge fund the second largest newspaper owner in the United States. Local news advocates have reason to be worried. Alden has a reputation for being profit-driven and ruthless in its cost-cutting efforts. Alden has, in fact, already installed new leadership and saddled Tribune Publishing with $278 million in debt associated with the acquisition. As Lenfest Institute CEO Jim Friedlich put it: “Alden’s playbook is pretty straightforward: Buy low, cut deeper.” 
Caught our eye
Marisa Nowicki’s award-winning congressional map, as featured in the Pennsylvania Capital Star. (Courtesy Draw the Lines PA)"
City Hall Roll Call
City Hall Roll Call is a summary of City Council’s weekly Stated Meeting by Lauren Vidas, an election lawyer and government relations specialist. Good government requires transparency, which is why C70 proudly sponsors this important work!
On our radar
High turnout in an “off year”: Record turnout for the May 18 primary, largely due to mail-in ballots, is a reason to celebrate for Pennsylvania voters.
4 of 5 bills die in committee: A Fox43 investigation found that more than 81.5% of the bills introduced in the PA House and Senate chambers during the 2019-2020 session never left the committees they were referred to.
Lawmakers report fewer gifts during pandemic: Public filings with the State Ethics Commission show that fewer PA lawmakers report receiving gifts of significant value last year, Spotlight PA reports.
“Internal systemic failures” behind the Wolf administration’s bungling of statewide referendum: The state Inspector General found no evidence that the administration’s failure to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment, which provided legal recourse to survivors of child sexual abuse, was deliberate or the result of outside pressure or “intentional malfeasance.”
New undersheriff in town: Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal hired Tariq El-Shabazz, a former criminal defense attorney, as the new undersheriff.
“I’ve never seen one this mismanaged”: Elections expert Jennifer Morrell recounted her experience observing the Arizona GOP’s election audit for The Washington Post. Among the many errors she described? A fixation on cheese dusted-ballots and nonexistent bamboo fibers.
Get Involved
DIY with DTL: Draw the Lines Mapmaking Competition - Deadline: June 1

You have until June 1st to finish your map for the final Draw the Lines competition. This is the last contest before we start drawing for PA’s Congressional and General Assembly maps for real this fall. Remember, you have a chance to win up to $2,500 for your entry. This is the best way for you to demonstrate to the political pros that you are paying attention and ready to contribute to the real map drawing process later this year!
Divided We Fall: How Business Can Depolarize the U.S.
June 3, 17 and 29, 12-1:30 pm

Deepening political divisions pose a threat to our nation. It’s a concern that goes beyond the GOP’s right turn and the Democrats’ shift leftward—polarization and government dysfunction are debilitating the country’s ability to solve big problems. Join the Niskanen Center and Business for America for this four-part webinar, which will explore root causes of political polarization, its social and economic impacts, and what the business community can do to reduce it. The second session is June 3: How Business Can Depolarize the US. Register.
Dare to Run Info Webinar
June 10, 6:30-7:30PM ET

Dare to Run educates and empowers women on their journey to public office at the local, state, and national level. Women candidates can participate in Dare to Run’s one-year certificate program as they pursue careers in public service. This info webinar covers the application process for their third leadership cohort, which closes in August. Register.
America Talks: A Weekend of Connection in the Midst of Deep Division
June 12 and 13, 2021, 1-2:30PM ET

America Talks facilitates one-on-one conversations across the political divide. Join a brief livestream kickoff at 1PM, then have an hour-long, one-on-one conversation on video with a fellow American who answered some of the sign-up questions differently. Register.
For the first time in our 117-year history, Seventy has created a membership program to broaden, diversify and expand our community of local democracy-builders. Your membership also provides unique opportunities to meet civic leaders and policy experts, gain inside knowledge of the reform process, and connect with people who are passionate about our city and commonwealth.
Become a member today!