In a recent opinion piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jake Wheatley, member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, criticized the redistricting reform brewing in the Pennsylvania legislature. He takes issue with the lack of concern for the racial makeup of the Pennsylvania’s elected officials.
I am deeply concerned with the impact such legislation would have on the representation of African Americans and other people of color at the state level. Regrettably, the 253-member Pennsylvania General Assembly only has 21 African American and Latino elected officials – 17 in the House of Representatives and four in the state Senate. Of those members, only three come from outside of the city of Philadelphia.
According to U.S. Census estimates for 2006, if the General Assembly’s demographics matched those of the people we represent, instead of 21 African American and Latino legislators, there would be 36. I do not expect an exact match, but these statistics must at a minimum raise concerns.
To date, I have heard nothing about allowing whoever draws the districts even to consider these types of factors.
He also criticized the use of the Legislative Reference Bureau:
However, the bureau’s director has publicly voiced his concerns about the possibility of jeopardizing the LRB’s nonpartisan mission and reputation. Consequently, the committee chairwoman felt it inappropriate to simply rubber-stamp what she believes to be flawed legislation.