York City Council passes resolution in support of citizens' redistricting commission

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
City Councilmen Michael Helfrich, right, and Henry Nixon, left, share a laugh during election night at the Democratic Party Headquarters on South Duke Street in York, Pa. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Dawn J. Sagert - dsagert@yorkdispatch.com

The York City Council passed a resolution in support of an independent citizens' redistricting commission to draw congressional district lines during a Tuesday, June 5, city council meeting.

The resolution encapsulates the council's support for a "truly independent" citizens' commission, avoiding legislator and partisan influence in all ways possible.

Such a commission "will help to ensure a fair and accurate legislative and congressional redistricting process that respects political subdivisions, will prohibit districts from being drawn to favor or discriminate against a political party or candidate, will promote transparency, the use of impartial and sound methodology when setting district boundaries and allow for public input," according to the resolution.

The resolution unites York City with more than 250 other cities, towns, boroughs and counties statewide that have already made similar resolutions, according to Fair Districts PA, a nonprofit volunteer organization that aims to end partisan gerrymandering.

The wording echoes legislation proposed by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton County, which would create an 11-person citizens' commission that would be randomly selected by the secretary of the commonwealth.

However, that bill has since been amended by the state government committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer, a Republican representing parts of York, Lebanon and Dauphin counties. The amendment allows legislators to choose the commission members.

More:Pa. redistricting bill on its way to Senate

Despite the differences, the bill has received support from Fair Districts PA and Council President Henry Nixon for its progress toward fairer redistricting in the state.

It's also received criticism from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan policy think tank, for not taking reform far enough.

More:York City Council considers joining call for citizens' redistricting commission

More:Policy think tank: Folmer redistricting amendment 'far from desirable'

Still, some residents aren't confident either version of the redistricting bills would end partisan influence in drawing congressional lines.

"Partisanship has claimed redistricting forever," said Franklin Williams, of York City, during the public comment period. "Unless both major parties commit to creating fair, competitive districts, it won't help. I support (redistricting reform), but don't be unrealistic and think it will solve all the problems. I wish it would, but it probably won't."