House Government Committee puts forth redistricting map

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

A new congressional map proposed last week by House State Government Committee Chair Seth Grove already is facing criticism.

Selected from 19 citizen-submitted plans, it was drawn by redistricting advocate Amanda Holt, a former Republican Lehigh County commissioner who successfully challenged previous state House and Senate maps in 2012.

“Today, I am proud to announce that a citizen’s map, not a map drawn by legislators, has been introduced for consideration by the General Assembly, and for the first time in Pennsylvania history is posted for public view and comment," Grove, R-Dover Township, said in a statement Wednesday.

Critics, however, said the map favors Republicans.

"The congressional district map proposed by Representative Seth Grove today is an obvious effort to gerrymander those districts to benefit the Republican Party," said Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, in a statement.

"The maps would be likely to make it difficult or impossible for Democrats to hold two to four of the seats they occupy today. At a minimum, they would give the Republicans a majority of Congressional seats in a state where Democrats are a substantial majority of voters."

If the map is approved, Stier argued, Gov. Tom Wolf must veto the map.

Grove did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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In his statement, Grove said the map was selected because it was drawn without political influence; complies with constitutionally mandated criteria; satisfies equal population requirements; limits splits of townships, municipalities and other local subdivisions; and is composed of districts that are compact and contiguous.

A preliminary redistricting map selected for comment by the House State Government Committee chaired by Rep. Seth Grove.

A new congressional map is required after each census. The 2020 count showed Pennsylvania's population grew by about 2.4% over the past decade. That slow growth led to a reduction of congressional seats from 18 to 17.

Among the changes, the map would move the heavily Democratic city of Harrisburg out of Rep. Scott Perry's district, which includes the northern portion of York County, and add the state capital to a central Pennsylvania district that includes the homes of Republican Reps. Fred Keller and John Joyce. That district would reach west to Altoona.

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Two meetings about the proposed map will be held in Harrisburg. The first, an informational meeting, is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday. A meeting described as a "voting meeting" will be held at 8 a.m. Monday, Dec. 20.

The introduction of the redistricting map is just the first step in a process that could see significant changes, or even a court challenge.

In 2018, the Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court threw out Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional map, saying it was gerrymandered to advantage Republicans, who held 13 out of the 18 seats. The court adopted a new map that resulted in a 9-9 split after the 2018 elections.

State Rep. Scott Conklin, who serves as the Democratic chair of the House State Government Committee, told The Associated Press that Democrats had not been able to discuss the choice before Grove made it.

Another map is set to be introduced by the Senate State Government Committee chairs. That map will be introduced by Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, and Sen. David Argall, R-Berks/Schuylkill, according to a spokesperson for Senate Democrats.

Any map would have to be approved by majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate before going to Wolf for approval. 

"The governor will thoroughly review the proposed map, however on initial review, he has significant concerns about the way it divides clear communities of interest throughout the commonwealth," Wolf spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer wrote in an email. "He will use the redistricting principles established by the Redistricting Advisory Council to guide his review of the map." 

Those principles include keeping each district as equal in population as possible and explaining specific decisions. 

— Matt Enright can be reached via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.