August 6, 2021
How to draw the lines: A roadmap to transparent redistricting

Public hearings on redistricting continued this week with sessions devoted to redrawing the lines for both Congressional and General Assembly districts. The PA Legislative Redistricting Commission met in Harrisburg Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Wednesday, the Senate’s State Government Committee kicked off its series of hearings on Congressional redistricting at Temple University’s North Philly campus (The House State Government Committee held its first redistricting hearing last week). Both panels heard from advocates, academics and interested citizens (some of them Draw the Lines mappers). Topics ranged from communities of interest and the U.S. Voting Rights Act to prison gerrymandering, and public participation in the process was a major focus for both the Congressional and state-legislative processes. On Wednesday, C70 CEO David Thornburgh outlined our plan to “develop a meaningful and efficient program of public engagement” to the PA Senate Congressional mapmakers, much as he did to their House colleagues last week. It’s our Roadmap to Transparent Redistricting.
  • So far, so good, says the LRC’s chair: University of Pittsburgh law professor Mark Nordenberg, the tie-breaking chair of the legislative panel that will redraw General Assembly district lines, is confident that his fellow commission members, the R and D leaders of the PA House and Senate, will play nicely together. “There has been absolutely no sign to this point that they do not share the desire to be open and transparent, or that they will be unreasonable in the positions that they advance,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Mastriano’s audit: wrong-headed and mean-spirited

State Sen. Doug Mastriano told Newsmax Tuesday that the subpoenas he has been threatening to issue to the election boards of Philadelphia, Tioga and York Counties to force them to turn over their election materials would be issued within the next two weeks after none of the counties agreed to turn them over voluntarily. Not only would the audit exacerbate partisan rancor but it could take election equipment in the three counties out of commission (perhaps permanently) and jeopardize this year’s and next year’s elections as well. Then there are the death threats the Tioga County Commissioners (all of them Republicans) have been receiving. They don’t deserve that. And nobody needs the disruption, distraction and distrust an audit would cause. 
  • Another motive? An AP report on the $5.6m in private donations raised for the Arizona audit also says that Republican fundraisers are using it and the proposed PA audit to raise funds for other campaigns.
Caught our eye
Watch C70 David Thornburgh’s Aug. 4 testimony before the PA Senate State Government Committee on citizen input in the Congressional redistricting process (approximately nine minutes which begins at 1:19:05)
On our radar
Head-scratcher: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial board is encouraged that there could be common ground on voter ID between Gov. Wolf and legislative Republicans after all, but “what’s baffling is why the governor didn’t attempt to work out a deal months ago.”
A head start for November 2: The Associated Press runs down the statewide appellate judicial races that will be on the general election ballot this fall.
Spotlight on legislative perks: Spotlight PA and The Caucus explore how lax rules and a lack of transparency make the PA General Assembly's taxpayer-funded perks easy to abuse in light of former Delco State Rep. Margo Davidson's arrest last month on theft and fraud charges.
Delco special election: The special election for the remainder of PA Rep. Margo Davidson’s term will also be held. Nov. 2. Davidson, whose district is centered in Upper Darby, resigned last month after being arrested on theft and fraud charges.
Uniformity clause snags Philly: PA’s Commonwealth Court ruled last week that the city’s 2018 assessments of some 700 commercial properties violated the state Constitution’s mandate of equality between commercial and residential real estate. The ruling will cost the city some $48m unless it’s overturned. C70 supports scrapping the Uniformity Clause, as CEO David Thornburgh pointed out in 2018 City Council testimony on tax policy.
Asleep at the switch: An Inquirer editorial criticizes the Kenney administration for failing to prevent the body-parts scandal at the Medical Examiner’s Office, calls for policy changes and demands that from now  on “someone in government is paying attention.”
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