A map for whom? Advocate says map makers should engage Pa.’s diverse communities | Wednesday Coffee

When it comes to transparency and inclusivity, Ogunmefun says hearings are not enough.

August 4, 2021 6:30 am

2011 House redistricting plan via Pa. Legislative Redistricting Commission.

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you were watching or in attendance at the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s first public comment hearing Tuesday evening, you may have heard Salewa Ogunmefun testify about the need for the commission to seek “meaningful input” from Pennsylvania’s most diverse communities in regard to the legislative redistricting process. 

Ogunmefun, who is executive director of Pennsylvania Voice, a statewide network of organizations that aim to increase civic engagement, access and representation in Pennsylvania, spoke to the Capital-Star about redistricting efforts.

While others have lauded this year’s efforts to redraw the maps as more transparent than previous attempts, Ogunmefun told the Capital-Star Tuesday that public hearings aren’t enough.

“I think there’s a lot more that they [the LRC] could be doing,” Ogunmefun said, adding that the existence of public hearings doesn’t mean the process is transparent for all.

“It’s easy to translate that as transparent,” Ogunmefun said, noting that without more advance notice of the hearings, and more outreach efforts, people in communities of interests – such as BIPOC communities – won’t be heard.

This isn’t the first time the topic of transparency has come up, either.

2012 Pa. Senate Map (Capital-Star screen capture).

During a hearing of the House State Government Committee last month, calls for increased transparency were echoed by experts and advocates alike.

“This time, voters are demanding transparency and more,” Jean Handley of Fair Districts PA told the committee then.

Ogunmefun shared five recommendations for the LRC that she believes would improve the redistricting process for Pennsylvania’s diverse communities:

  1. Publish the public hearing schedule as soon as possible (at least two weeks in advance),
  2. Create room for community experts to testify, 
  3. Call witnesses that reflect/represent the diversity of Pennsylvania,
  4. Appoint an outreach director from a diverse background,
  5. Meet as soon as possible with Pennsylvania Voice to share best practices.

Currently, 2020 Census redistricting data is scheduled to arrive by Sept. 30. 

This, Ogunmefun said, leaves plenty of time for the commission to bring Pennsylvania’s diverse communities into the dialogue.

“We have so much more time,” Ogunmefun said. “We should have the opportunity to engage in this process.”

An SEIU activist rallies for a $15/hr. minimum wage, which was one of the policies that F&M researchers polled in their most recent public opinion survey. (Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr Commons)

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Image via Instagram.

What Goes On

The House Democratic Policy Committee will meet at 9 a.m. at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie Wednesday to discuss the economic impact of local breweries, distilleries and wineries. 

The House Education Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a vote on HB 1705, followed by a hearing on HB 972.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission will meet again Wednesday at 5 p.m. for citizen feedback on legislative reapportionment.

No public appearances at this time.

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The Penn Capital-Star Readers book club on Goodreads is currently reading “Women and Other Monsters” by Jess Zimmerman. To join in on our next read or recommend a book, visit our Goodreads page. 

And now you’re up to date. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.