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Pennsylvania voters learn more about independent districting commission from California model

SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, P.A. ---  The new congressional district map in Pennsylvania is set, for now.

After the commonwealth Supreme Court's map avoided several judicial challenges, including at the U.S. Supreme Court, it's the map for 2018 and 2020.

However, some voters, like David Porter, said they don't want to see a similar battle in another couple years.

"Doesn't matter what your affiliation is, the will of the people needs to be done and the way the lines are drawn it's not that way," said Porter.

House Bill 722 looks to change the map-making process forever.

It proposes to change the Pennsylvania Constitution to install an independent districting commission.

While it is only in committee, it has 110 co-sponsors: 72 democrats and 38 republicans.

The idea would put 11 citizens with no political ties in charge of drawing the district maps.

California is the only state in the U.S. to have such a committee.

Gil Ontai, one of 14 redistricting commissioner in California, said they've seen a "dramatic change" since starting in 2010.

He said 36,000 citizens went through essay and interview processes and it was narrowed down to 14 people with the help of a lottery system and selection process.

Ontai, a practicing architect and registered republican said it's helped voters feel better represented.

"The process we ended up with, we felt, was genuine and the response that we got back from throughout California made us convinced that was the right thing to do," said Ontai.

Some voters, like Carole Dascani, said they still need to learn more about the idea.

However, she said some changes need to happen in Pennsylvania because the current process "doesn't make sense."

"It's too much controlled by whatever political party is in power and it doesn't really recognize how the voters are distributed and...I think it ends up that a lot of people's votes don't really count," said Dascani.

There is a senate counterpart to House Bill 722, Senate Bill 22, that would also advance the idea of an independent redistricting commission.

Senate Bill 22 will have a hearing in the Senate State Government Committee Tuesday at 9 a.m.