Two Penn State Faculty Appointed To Governor Wolf’s Constituency Council

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa .– Lee Ann Banaszak, Head of the Department of Political Science and Professor of Political Science and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Christopher Fowler, Associate Professor of Geography and Director of the Peter R. Gould Center for Geography Education and Outreach, were appointed by Governor Tom Wolf to the newly formed Pennsylvania Redistribution Advisory Council.

The six-member council, which also includes faculty members from Gettysburg College, West Chester University and Drexel University, as well as a former City of Philadelphia lawyer, was created by executive order. It is made up of experts in political science, geography, mathematics and redistribution and was created to provide advice to the governor when he considers Pennsylvania’s next redistribution plan, which is due to be voted on by the legislature later this year.

This is Banaszak’s second appointment as governor; She previously served on the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission, created by executive order in November 2019. The 13-member commission was convened to make recommendations on reforming the redistricting process. Fowler has been active in “Draw the Lines PA,” a non-partisan resource for Pennsylvanians who want to end gerrymandering.

“We need to bring more fairness and transparency to the redistribution process, so that every Pennsylvanian can rest assured that their voice is heard …” Governor Wolf said in a recent press release announcing the formation of the council. “The decisions made to draw new district boundaries will affect every person and community in Pennsylvania over the next decade. It is one of my most important acts as governor and I take this responsibility very seriously. “

Each member of the board brings specific expertise. Banaszak noted that as a political scientist, she brings her research on state policy and electoral rolls as well as her experience in the previous commission, where she thoroughly explored redistribution issues, conducted surveys and organized numerous public hearings.

Fowler said that a geographer’s role in redistribution involves thinking of space in terms of “how it came to be what it is.” When you start to think of space as a social construct, as something that emerges from a multitude of practices, you see why it makes sense for a geographer to sit on that council, ”he said.

Council members meet directly with Governor Wolf, who tasked the group with developing criteria for what a fair card would look like.

“We don’t do technical analysis or draw a map,” Fowler said. “We are trying to establish a set of rules so that when the governor receives a card from the legislature, he can judge that card based on the criteria that we have defined. Members of the legislature will know in advance what type of criteria the governor intends to use. “

“What is important is to develop criteria to assess whether a card is fair or not,” Banaszak said. “Feedback from the citizens of Pennsylvania will also be essential to this process, so our role is to bring in our expertise, review the public feedback, and then combine it to give the governor some idea of ​​how to think about the news. card when it falls on his desk.

Members of the public can submit map proposals, describe communities of interest, or share comments through the Pennsylvania Redistribution Public Comment Portal.

“Given the importance of the redistribution process to the people of Pennsylvania, I am pleased that Dr. Fowler’s expertise in understanding the influence of geographic boundaries on political outcomes will aid in this effort,” Lee said. Kump, John Leone Dean of the College of Earth. and mineral sciences. “He and Dr. Banaszak will be great additions to the board. “

“I am not at all surprised that two Penn State academics have been chosen to advise Governor Wolf on this critical subject,” added Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Dr. Banaszak has considerable expertise in the subject of redistribution, and Dr. Fowler’s reputation precedes him in this area as well. I am proud that they are contributing to the democratic process that we value and helping Penn State fulfill its role. land grant mission serving the public good.

Coincidentally, Banaszak and Fowler, who had never collaborated before, recently received two grants – one from the National Science Foundation and one from the Russell Sage Foundation – for a multi-year project to examine social inequalities and policies in the way the voter rolls are held. Penn State Professor Emeritus of Sociology John McCarthy, along with Dane Mataic, assistant professor of sociology at North Dakota State University and former Penn State PhD student, are the co-principal investigators on the project, which began in June 2021.

“Penn State is in a remarkable position, both geographically and as a trusted actor in governance and representation, to be involved in this effort,” said Fowler. “This is the kind of scholarship and public action that is at the heart of our mission. “

“Our appointment to the Governing Council reflects Penn State’s leadership role in scholarly and public engagement on issues relevant to our state and our nation,” Banaszak concluded. “Chris and I are honored to be a part of the redistribution process. I hope this serves as a model for Penn State students on how citizens on the ground can have a meaningful impact on their democratic institutions. “

  • Lee Ann Banaszak, Head of the Department of Political Science and Professor of Political Science and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the College of Liberal Arts.

    IMAGE: Courtesy of the Department of Political Science

  • Fowler_Chris_EMS

    Christopher Fowler, Associate Professor of Geography and Director of the Peter R. Gould Center for Geography Education and Outreach at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

    IMAGE: Courtesy of Christopher Fowler

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