Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission has voted on its proposals for state House and Senate voting-district maps. Good-government advocacy groups say the maps are a step in the right direction to keep communities of interest together. 

The biggest changes are seen in the House map, reflecting large population shifts in the Commonwealth over the last decade. As a result, several incumbents, majority Republican, have been drawn into the same district. 

Carol Kuniholm, chair of Fair Districts PA, said though it may be frustrating for incumbents, the result is more compact districts, with fewer county splits.

“Rather than try to draw the districts to keep as many incumbents in place as possible, especially with the House map,” said Kuniholm, “it was done to reflect communities better. And to remind everybody that these districts belong to the people of Pennsylvania, and not to the people who are elected to serve the people of Pennsylvania.”

According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, there’s a near-even party split in both the Senate and House maps, and a slight increase for Democrats compared with the current ones.

The commission is made up of four House and Senate leaders, with one nonpartisan chair – Mark Nordenberg, a former dean at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Salewa Ogunmefun, executive director of the group Pennsylvania Voice, said she’s happy to see the creation of seven new districts that would maximize the vote for communities of color.

“Chair Nordenberg and the LRC members,” said Ogunmefun, “were really committed to making sure that the growing populations in the state – which are entirely driven by the Black population, the Latinx population, by the Asian American population – that those communities are getting more opportunity to elect their candidates from this process.”

Pennsylvania’s Asian population grew by 46% between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census data, and its Hispanic and Latino population grew by 45%. 

Pennsylvanians will have 30 days from last week’s vote to provide public comment on the proposals.

The newly proposed PA 159th Legislative District no longer includes Chester Township and Upland while adding Upper Chichester. With all of Chichester now in the 159th, a new large block of active voters from Chi will rival Chester’s large block of registered voters in the district. The 2022 St. Rep election in the 159th District could become a competitive race for the first time in ages.

The newly proposed PA 159th Legislative map

by Emily Scott & Stefan Roots