Gov. Wolf calls for independent commission to draw Pa. electoral maps

Pennsylvania Budget
Gov. Wolf on Monday announced his support for a number of bills aimed at improving the elections process.

HARRISBURG — A week after two courts decided not to intervene in a challenge to Pennsylvania’s redrawn congressional district boundaries, Gov. Wolf on Monday renewed his call for legislators to create an independent commission to draw the state’s electoral maps.

His announcement came a day before the Senate’s state government committee was set to discuss that measure and other potential election changes.

That effort is supported by several groups that endorsed the lawsuit that led the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to strike down the previous congressional map and impose a new one, a move that many expect will improve Democrats’ chances of gaining ground in this year’s elections.

“This should not be a partisan issue,” Wolf said at a Monday afternoon news conference in the Capitol. He added later, “This is really about democracy.”

Wolf is also backing efforts that would allow people to register to vote on Election Day — instead of having to meet deadlines weeks before — and would automatically register eligible voters when they get a driver’s license from the state unless they opt out. He also supports limits on campaign donations.

All of the bills have been referred to legislative committees, but have not left them — although some are expected to come up at a lengthy hearing Tuesday. Some face resistance or skepticism from Republicans, who hold the majorities in both chambers.

Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, noted that people can currently change their voter registration when they update their driver’s licenses and expressed concerns that same-day registration could open the door for voter fraud.

Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, called the governor’s announcement a “campaign stunt,” noting that the Senate’s committee meeting had already been in the works. “The Senate committed long ago to moving forward with the process of examining how congressional districts are drawn as soon as the court proceedings were over,” she said.

A spokesman for Wolf noted that his support for the measures was not new.