State Redistricting Committee Enters Homestretch to Complete House and Senate Maps | News, Sports, Jobs

PA SPOTLIGHT The Pennsylvania Legislative Redistribution Commission, seen here at the Capitol.

Editor’s Note: Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. This article is part of a year-long reporting project focusing on redistricting and gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. It is made possible by the support of members of Spotlight PA and Votebeat, a project focused on election integrity and voting access.

HARRISBURG — The panel tasked with drawing Pennsylvania’s new legislative districts must now weigh more than 6,000 comments from a month-long public comment period before voting on the final drafts of the maps.

The Legislative Redistribution Commission – a five-person panel made up of senior party leaders and chaired by an independent member – has until mid-February to make changes to its proposed House and Senate maps, in accordance with the constitution of the state.

Once the committee has approved its final drafts, “anyone aggrieved” then has 30 days to challenge one or both cards in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

That schedule conflicts with the Jan. 24 deadline for final cards set by the state’s top election official to meet this year’s spring primary schedule. So far, Republicans who control the legislature have been unwilling to move the May election.

“I continue to hope that we can approve a final plan without using the full 30-day period allowed by the state constitution, although it will be difficult,” he added. Mark Nordenberg, chairman of the commission, told Spotlight PA.

The Legislative Redistribution Commission is responsible for redrawing the maps of the State House and Senate every 10 years to account for changing demographics. The panel began meeting last spring and released the initial maps in mid-December, kicking off the public comment period.

The State House map has drawn heavy criticism from GOP lawmakers who call the proposal a Democratic gerrymander because it could significantly shift the balance of power in the Republican-controlled chamber.

However, supporters of redistricting reform say the creation of more seats that could be won by Democrats is the result of decades of partisan gerrymandering against the minority party and population shifts over the past decade that favor the Democrats. densely populated areas of Democrats in the Southeast. Nonpartisan analyzes show that the proposed map improves on the equity measures mandated by the Pennsylvania Constitution over the current map, and still has a partisan bias toward Republicans.

The state Senate map has received less criticism, but supporters have scrutinized its deference to the office. In its current form, the State House card pits 24 incumbents against each other while the State Senate card creates two similar matchups. Proponents of redistricting say that this practice, known as buddy-mandering, often maintains its position at the expense of other good mapping criteria such as compactness or population equality.

In multiple hearings, private citizens, state legislators, county commissioners and former officials have expressed concerns about the division of their communities and the lack of Hispanic representation. Pennsylvania’s Latino population has grown 43% over the past decade, and advocates told commissioners the maps don’t do enough to create districts where Hispanic voters can select the candidates they want.

Staff members of the Legislative Redistribution Commission have already read all of the submitted comments and organized them for panel members to use when finalizing the maps. State senators on the commission have worked collaboratively on their chamber map in the past, while state House representatives have used Nordenberg as a go-between.

Nordenberg has previously said he would like to pass the State House and Senate maps unanimously. The initial state Senate map hit that mark, but the state House map was voted down by the two Republican leaders on the panel.

After the panel approves the final maps, anyone can directly appeal to the state Supreme Court within 30 days. Redistricting watchers expect this to happen.

The last two redistricting legislative processes have resulted in lawsuits. The 2011 round ended with the state Supreme Court forcing the Legislative Redistribution Commission to redraw both maps after finding that the counties had been unnecessarily divided to benefit the incumbents.

A House Republican spokesman declined to enter “hypothetical” when asked if the caucus would take legal action against the chamber map, but affirmed its commitment to pushing for changes.

“We’re going to challenge this on behalf of the public to the extent that we have to because it’s not fair,” House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Central County Republican who sits on the panel, told PennLive. “It’s a 10-year verdict.”

Today’s breaking news and more to your inbox

Comments are closed.