Bill would improve state redistricting

Anyone who has observed the political slime that has been Pennsylvania’s redistricting map changes of recent months should be heartened that even some members of the sitting Legislature are embarrassed enough to change the process.

The Senate’s State Government Committee this past week approved an overhaul of how Pennsylvania draws districts for the Legislature and Congress.

The goal of Lisa Boscula, a Northampton Democrat, the prime sponsor, is a more fair, less political process for redistricting.

The composition of the proposed redistricting commission and the manner in which ultimate boundaries would be determined appeared to achieve that goal.

The state Supreme Court earlier this year threw out a Republican-crafted 2011 congressional map and established new district lines for this year’s election. Only the most naive among us does not recognize how politicized the changes imposed by a Democrat majority state high court were.

Boscula’s bill would drastically reduce the role of the courts. The new redistricting commission would be made up of members recommended by four caucus leaders and the government before being approved by supermajorities of lawmakers. For each caucus, the leaders would pick two nominees, and then two-thirds of their respective chambers would have to vote for them.

The other three members would be people who are not registered Republicans or Democrats, guaranteeing independents or members of minor political parties are represented. The governor would recommend them and then two-thirds votes of both chambers would be required for their approval.

No one who has been an elected or appointed federal or state official in the past five years would be eligible for the commission.

As for approval of the map, it would require approval of at least seven of the 11 members, with two “yes” votes required from each major party and two “yes” votes required from the three members nominated by the governor.

In the event of a stalemate, the commission would submit several proposals to the Legislature, with a two-thirds approval necessary for the map.

If the Senate and House approve the legislation this year, it would have to pass both chambers in the two-year legislation session that starts in January before going to the voters for final, referendum approval.

Our only regret is that this process — similar to what we have previously called for — was not in place when people with political motives decided this year to change a redistricting map that was legislatively approved six years ago three months before an election.

It would have saved a national embarrassment for the state of Pennsylvania.