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Updates on Redistricting in PA

Waynesburg Courthouse. Image credit Allison Evans Photography

Congressional Redistricting Map Update

The state of Pennsylvania has been undergoing the process of determining new district boundaries for the state’s federal congressional districts. After a census, districts are redrawn to ensure that each citizen’s vote carries the same weight in the ballot box.

On December 15th, the GOP released the final copy of their new proposed congressional redistricting map. The proposed map was voted on and passed by the state Senate 29-20 on Monday, January 24th. It was then vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf on January 26th. Commonwealth Court reviewed fourteen different proposals submitted by Governor Wolf, top legislative leaders, citizen groups, and others. The PA Supreme Court accepted a request to take over the process before the Commonwealth Court made a decision. The Supreme Court then asked Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough to make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court.

On February 7th, Judge McCullough recommended the state Supreme Court adopt the proposed map that originally passed in the legislature and was later vetoed by the Governor. The state Supreme Court is not required to follow Judge McCullough’s recommendation and will hold hearings beginning on February 18th. The justices can pick from over a dozen proposed maps, alter the proposals, or draw their own. It is unclear at this point what the final decision will be.

On Wednesday, February 9th, the State Supreme Court decided to put a temporary hold on the February 15th date that candidates were to begin collecting petition signatures in order to get on the ballot for the May 17th primary election. The reason for the hold is that the court will be hearing oral arguments on February 18th in a case that will determine the congressional district lines. This does not change the scheduled date of the election.

Legislative Redistricting Map Update

The state of Pennsylvania has been undergoing the process of determining new district boundaries for the state’s legislative districts. These districts help to determine who will represent Pennsylvanians in the state legislature. The PA Constitution requires that legislative districts for the State House of Representatives and State Senate be redrawn each decade following the federal census. The goal of this process is to ensure that each vote ultimately carries the same weight at the ballot box. In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Pennsylvania’s state constitution requires that state legislative districts be contiguous, compact, and preserve political subdivisions. 

Pennsylvania’s state legislative lines are drawn by a commission of politicians called the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. The four legislative leaders, or the deputies they appoint, serve as the commissioners. These four then choose a citizen who is not a politician to serve as the commission’s chair. If the four legislative leaders do not select a fifth member within 45 days, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court chooses. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission met on February 4th to vote on new PA House and Senate maps. The Commission finalized the maps after it received over 6,000 public comments and hosted several hearings. The Commission has filed the final plan for both the House & Senate maps with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, which is available on the Commission’s website. You can view the new House and Senate maps here.

We hope that decisions are made on both maps in time for the set election date of May 17th, and that election officials can execute this election with little to no issues. Please contact CCJ’s Field Program Coordinator Paul Fedore at paul@coalfieldjustice.org or call 724-229-3550 Ext 8 for further information.

Author

  • Paul Fedore has been a resident of Washington County for four years and previously worked with Washington County United, a chapter of PA United, as a canvasser fighting for economic, environmental, and racial justice. He loves camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. Paul joined CCJ’s team in July 2020 as the Field Program Coordinator to help deepen and strengthen our relationships with communities in southwestern Pennsylvania and to ensure that people have a pathway to engage in improving their communities. He is excited to work with everyone to hold fossil fuel companies and our elected officials accountable and to organize to build power in our small towns and rural communities.

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