HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s population has grown to more than 13 million, according to new census data – and as the mapmaking process gets under way to redraw district lines, advocates want to make sure the process is transparent. 

PA’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission will have 90 days to draw the state Senate and House maps. The congressional maps are decided through legislation approved by the governor. 

Carol Kuniholm, chair of Fair Districts PA, said it’s important for residents to have a voice in redistricting.

“The public needs a chance to look at maps and say, ‘Can you explain why you did this?'” said Kuniholm. “Because we’ve seen in the past, we’ve had college dormitories cut in half or retirement communities where everybody in one community is in one district except for one row of houses in another district. That kind of thing just really demoralizes people and confuses them.”

The Pennsylvania Department of State said it would like to receive the LRC’s approved plan by January 2022, ahead of the May primaries. After the commission files its preliminary plans, the public will have 30 days to file complaints against the proposed maps.

The state’s Hispanic and Latino population has grown significantly since 2010 and groups such as Make the Road Pennsylvania want to ensure they’re heard as district lines are redrawn. 

Make the Road PA‘s Civic Engagement Director Diana Robinson said it’s necessary for state leaders involved in redistricting to remove language barriers and have translators for public comment so these communities have a say in their political representation.

“So, moving forward, I think if we want to ensure that people are part of this process,” said Robinson, “we need to understand that there are many citizens and many people within our communities that are not English speaking, so if we want to ensure that all that are impacted can participate fully, we need to ensure that we have the tools for them to do so.”

Most of PA’s growth is centered in the southeastern part of the state, with Philadelphia’s population growing by 5%. The state only grew by 2.4% over the last decade and will lose a U.S. House seat.

Emily Scott