Outside Gov. Wolf's home, protesters call for General Assembly to return for redistricting vote

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

Roughly 30 protesters gathered in front of Gov. Tom Wolf's Mount Wolf home Wednesday, July 11, to urge him to bring the General Assembly back to Harrisburg to vote on redistricting legislation.

The protesters belonged to Fair Districts PA, a nonprofit volunteer organization that aims to end partisan gerrymandering. 

The group had hoped to have a discussion with Wolf or at least make their voices heard, but the governor was still in Harrisburg following a news conference earlier that day.

Still, the organization's message was clear: They want the governor to bring back the General Assembly from summer recess so they can vote on legislation that would change how the state draws congressional district lines.

Dozens gather to petition the home of Gov. Tom Wolf during a Fair Districts PA rally in Mount Wolf, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert

"This needs to be done before the end of July," said Carol Kuniholm, chairwoman of the organization. "Our legislators have demonstrated a great inability, even between the same party, to agree on any avenue or motion."

She then listed her demands.

"(Wolf) needs to bring the legislators back, tell them the public is watching you, and ask them if they really want to play the same games they always do," Kuniholm said.

More:Anti-gerrymandering group wants Wolf to call special session

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

Wolf did release a statement last week that said he would call a special session if the General Assembly were to "finalize a compromise" on the legislation, but that wasn't good enough for Fair Districts PA.

"Our legislators, for the most part, have heard us on this issue," she said. "It's troubling that a governor who ran on this issue and has spoken on this issue doesn't even respond to us."

Dozens gather to petition the home of Gov. Tom Wolf during a Fair Districts PA rally in Mount Wolf, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert

Others participating in the protest echoed her concern, some driving hours just to participate in the protest.

"I'm very concerned about our democracy," said Norma Van Dyke, of Philadelphia. "This is evidence of abdication in the state and local government, and it's pervasive."

The long fight for redistricting: Fair Districts PA has been following legislation that would allow Pennsylvanians to vote on whether the state should change how congressional district lines are drawn for more than a year.

To make it onto the 2020 ballot, a bill would have to pass by the end of July.

However, legislators have failed to agree on one version of a bill. The closest they have come is with Senate Bill 22, which would create an 11-person citizens' commission to draw district lines.

Legislators have quarreled over proposed amendments to the bill for months.

Most recently, the Senate passed an amendment June 13 that would also allow voters to make a choice about judicial district reform.

The amendment would divide the state into regional judicial districts, and judges would be elected by region as well.

Fair Districts PA and other organizations, including some legislators, opposed the efforts, accusing them of stripping away progress on passing redistricting reform.

Since then, legislators have recessed for summer without further considering the legislation. As a result, the clock has nearly run out on getting redistricting reform on the 2020 ballot because a constitutional amendment needs to pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions before making it on an election ballot for a voter referendum.