Pennsylvania governor launches familiar public congressional redistricting effort

Pennsylvania governor launches familiar public congressional redistricting effort

September 14, 2021 0 By Christen Smith

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf launched a website on Monday to collect public input about the state’s new congressional district map in an effort that resembles House Republicans’ own strategy for redrawing the boundaries.

“We must bring more fairness and transparency to the redistricting process, so every Pennsylvanian is assured their voice is heard,” Wolf said. “I have long believed that gerrymandering is wrong, and politicians should not use the redistricting process to choose their own voters. Our commonwealth and our nation were founded on the ideals that voters freely select their own elected leaders.”

The new website, reminiscent of the one launched by House Republicans in July, wants residents to suggest boundaries and communities of interest for the administration to consider.

“As this critically important process kicks off in Pennsylvania, we want to hear from you,” Wolf said, noting that the decisions made on the new districts will impact residents’ political representation for the next decade. “Your vote and your voice matter. So please, take some time to share your thoughts with us.”

Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf’s spokesperson, when asked about the duplicative nature of the two websites said only that “the legislature and governor’s office have different roles in the process.”

“This effort is to have more transparency and public input in the congressional redistricting process,” she said.

Wolf also signed an executive order Monday that assembles a six member advisory council to help him evaluate the legislatively-drawn map that requires his ultimate approval.

“It is one of my most important acts as governor and I take that responsibility extremely seriously,” he said. “That is why I have tasked this advisory council with listening to the people of Pennsylvania and providing their expert advice so that I can better evaluate the maps in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians.”

Kensinger did not specifically comment on whether the governor trusts the process House Republicans initiated over the summer with their own website and a slate of regional hearings to field input from residents about what shape the new districts should take.

The Center Square also reached out to the House Republican Caucus for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

The latest U.S. Census data released in April shows the state’s 2.4% population growth between 2010 and 2020 wasn’t fast enough to save its 18th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Pennsylvania has lost a district in every reapportionment since 1930, federal data shows.

So now, state lawmakers must eliminate a district, redraw the boundaries and secure legislative and gubernatorial approval before the new map can become official. And they hope to do it all before the 2022 primary election.

It will be the third time Pennsylvania’s congressional district lines have changed since 2011 after a Republican-drawn map drew national scrutiny for its nonsensical and bizarre borders that many critics uphold as the pinnacle of gerrymandering.

The state Supreme Court officially tossed the map in 2018 and imposed its own borders. The redrawn districts flipped a 13-5 Republican majority to a 9-9 even split.

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