Weigh in on how you’ll be represented
State lawmakers are in the midst of perhaps the most important work they’ll do all year — and it’s work you can help them with.
The state’s Legislative Reapportionment Committee is collecting public input on its newly approved preliminary House and Senate political maps. The maps, which are redrawn once a decade following the U.S. Census, determine the configuration of political districts in the state House and Senate. As such, they have as much to do with who represents you in those chambers, in many cases, as the candidates themselves.
Redistricting processes are fraught. In many states, as has been the case in Pennsylvania, the majority party oversees the mapmaking. Majority parties, it hardly needs pointing out, never met an opportunity to gain political advantage that they didn’t like — or exploit.
Indeed, when state lawmakers took up their map-drawing pens a decade ago, majority Republicans concocted such a blatant a hodge-podge of self-serving cartography that the courts eventually threw it out — but not before the GOP gifted itself with 13 out of 18 congressional seats in a state with a 4-3 Democratic majority.
The process seems to be progressing in a more even-handed manner this time around, thanks to the establishment of the five-member reapportionment committee — consisting of four House and Senate leaders split evenly by party and a nonpartisan chair — and a more transparent procedure.
That’s where you come in.
The commission is holding the next in a series of public hearings this week at which it will gather feedback on the maps for both the state House and Senate. This is your chance to make your voice heard on decisions that will directly affect your state-level representation for the next decade and it’s too good to pass up.
Need to brush up on that state-level representation first? It couldn’t be easier. Journalists at SpotlightPA have created an interactive resource that compares your current district with what is proposed, including voter breakdown by political affiliation and ethnicity.
Again, the current hearings are to review state-level political districts. The map for the state’s congressional districts is experiencing prolonged labor pains — no doubt in part because the state’s relatively slow population growth over the past decade has cost it a congressional seat.
But good, old-fashioned politics comes into play as well, with concerns growing that the state’s Republican-led legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf won’t come to a meeting of the minds in time to accommodate this year’s elections. Predictably, the situation is now headed for the courts.
Still, that’s a debate for another day. The state House and Senate maps are ready for prime time and we encourage engaged citizens to make the most of their current opportunity to review, critique, even offer alternatives.
Hearings are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday in the North Office Building, Hearing Room 1, in Harrisburg:
Friday, Jan. 14, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. (the latter session for invited speakers only).
Saturday, Jan. 15, 9 a.m. to noon.
Those wishing to speak can still register online for either the early Friday or Saturday hearings. And, no you don’t have to attend in person. Registrants can speak either in person or via Zoom, as the sessions will be livestreamed.
Finally, if public speaking (or a trip to Harrisburg) isn’t your style, the commission is accepting written comments online.
Given the history of partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and the considerable efforts made over the past decade to create a fairer redistricting process, there is no excuse for the public not to take part.
State lawmakers have issued their redistricting invitations. It’s time for Pennsylvania’s voters to RSVP.