Latest Developments in Our Campaign for Just Redistricting in Pennsylvania

The Reform Jewish community of Pennsylvania, led by RAC-PA, is currently engaged in a social justice campaign, Just Elections: Real Change Starts Here. The overall goal of the campaign, which will run through the end of 2022, is to ensure that the voting process in PA—including registering to vote, casting a ballot, and counting the votes—is free of obstacles that would deny any Pennsylvania citizen the right to vote.

Our first campaign objective is helping secure a fair and racially just outcome of the process currently underway to redraw the boundaries for the seats in the PA House and PA Senate. We are also keeping an eye on the redistricting of PA’s Congressional seats, which have been reduced from 18 to 17 because our state’s population growth is slower than other states. The government bodies responsible for the redistricting process are striving to have all of the maps approved by mid-February, so that candidates planning to run for these offices have enough time to circulate their nominating petitions before the PA Primary Election on May 17.

Three major developments in the redistricting process occurred this week. Some of the news is encouraging, some not so much. We also see areas where the voices of the Reform Jewish movement and our partners made a difference. RAC-PA and our partners are still analyzing these developments and determining our next moves. Next week, we will publish a more detailed look at where the redistricting process stands and what we can do, in conjunction with our partners, to achieve our desired outcome for the redistricting process. Check your email and our website regularly for the latest information. And remember, what we do over the next 30 days will impact the next ten years of policy and justice in PA and the nation.


Update on Our Statewide Just Elections Racial Justice Campaign 

The initial focus of the Pennsylvania Reform movement’s 2021–2022 nonpartisan racial justice campaign, Just Elections, is advocating for a fair and racially just outcome of the process underway to redraw the boundaries of the Pennsylvania’s legislative districts. The maps for these districts – 203 in the PA House and 50 in or the PA Senate – are redrawn every 10 years in response to population changes in the U.S. Census.

Redrawing the maps is the responsibility of the 5-member, Legislative Reapportionment Commission or LRC. The redistricting process is typically carried out in the proverbial “smoke-filled back room,” with little to no input from the public. This means very little changes from one decade to the next.

But the process is different this cycle, with open hearings, testimony from members of the public, and citizens submitting maps to the LRC. What’s more, the LRC chair, who often casts the deciding vote on most matters, is not beholden to either political party. So, there is reason to believe the outcome of the 2021 redistricting process is going to be vastly fairer than in the past.

However, we cannot become complacent; oversight and advocacy are still needed. That’s why RAC-PA, the social justice arm of the Reform movement in Pennsylvania, is mobilizing our community to speak out in support of the People’s Maps developed by two grassroots organizations, Fair Districts PA and PA Voice, and submitted to the LRC. The People’s Maps cover all 253 seats in the General Assembly, and metrics show that they greatly reduce partisan gerrymandering, incumbent bias, and the tendency to divide jurisdictions into multiple districts. And by incorporating Unity Maps developed by PA Voice, the People’s Maps also address the underrepresentation of People of Color in the General Assembly.

Calls To Action:

Now is the time for Beth David members to speak up in support of the People’s Maps. Here are five steps you can take to push for their adoption:

  1. Visit Fair Districts PA’s website at https://bit.ly/JustPAMaps to learn about the maps.
  1. Send a comment to the LRC about the maps via the LRC’s comments page: https://bit.ly/LRC-Map-Comment. Tell them where you live, what you like about the People’s Maps, and/or what could be improved.
  1. Submit written testimony to the LRC and/or a letter to the editor of a local publication. Please email Bill Madway if you’re interested in pursuing this. 
  1. Attend a statewide educational program hosted by RAC-PA, “The Intersection of Redistricting and Racial Equity: A Case Study in PA.” The program will take place December 15, 7:30 p.m., on Zoom. The speaker will be George Cheung, the Director of More Equitable Democracy. The event is intended to help members of the Reform Jewish community better understand the racial equity issues in the Just Elections campaign, with an emphasis on redistricting. The timing of this event is not happenstance. The LRC is expected to release its maps for public scrutiny and comment shortly before or shortly after December 15. So, you’ll be able to put the information from George to work right away. Click here to register.
  1. Share this information with your network on social media, via email, etc., and urge people to take action.

The next few weeks and months will shape PA politics and policy for the next ten years. Thank you for doing your part in standing firm and speaking up for electoral districts that are not red, not blue, just fair.


 

RAC-PA Launches 2021-2022 Racial Justice Campaign

RAC-PA held a statewide meeting on Zoom the evening of September 30 to launch the PA Reform Movement’s 2021-2022 racial justice campaign: Just Election – Real Change Starts Here. Reform congregations across PA will be working with partners such as PA Voice and Fair Districts PA to make sure the new legislative maps being drawn this year are just and racially equitable, access to the ballot box is unfettered, and voter turnout is strong as it was in 2020. More details about the campaign and how you can get involved will be provided.


The Crisis in Afghanistan

Major Jewish organizations across the country, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and HIAS, are calling for action by the U.S. government and the American people to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.  Many Afghans’ lives are in danger due to the takeover of the country by the Taliban; there are also numerous Americans trapped in the country.

HIAS has posted a detailed action alert on its website explaining steps you can take to help the most vulnerable in Afghanistan. Steps include contacting the Biden administration and your members of Congress to advocate on behalf of the Afghan people; providing temporary or permanent housing and other types of support to Afghan families in our community; and helping welcome and assist those who are arriving. Visit https://www.hias.org/crisis-afghanistan-how-you-can-help to review the action alert.


For developments concerning Beth David’s social action/social justice priorities, please visit our “Call to Action” page in the “Make A Difference” section of our website (www.bdavid.org).