A group of Republican state lawmakers on Monday laid out plans for the process of redrawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries now that the 2020 Census is over.
During a press conference, Rep.Seth Grove (R – York) promised Pennsylvanians a “new level of transparency and unprecedented public input.”
“Using my legislation House Bill 22 as a guide, the people of the Commonwealth for the first time will be able to make their suggestions either in person at hearings or online,” Thomas said.
The lawmakers said the public would be able to provide map suggestions, make comments, and stay involved with the process through a website, http://paredistricting.com/.
Democratic-leaning map expert Ben Forstate was critical of the GOP press conference.
“If the PA GOP was truly committed to redistricting reform they would agree to an independent commission,” he tweeted. “As is the [General Assembly] would still be responsible for drawing maps.”
Rep. Grove, who chairs the House State Government Committee, said the process will begin later this month with “back-to-back” hearings. After that, they’ll begin a process of regionally targeted hearings later next month starting with a Western Pennsylvania hearing in late August, an Eastern Pennsylvania hearing in late September, finalized by a hearing for the central part of the state in late October.
Those hearings aren’t scheduled sooner in part because lawmakers are still waiting on the final tally from the U.S. Census Bureau. Grove says they expect to have the numbers in hand somewhere around mid-August.
Grove also took a shot at how the commonwealth’s current maps came about, saying that the new process being offered will allow Pennsylvanians to comment on current maps, as opposed to the maps devised in 2018 in which “the Pennsylvania Supreme court developed [maps] without any public input.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the maps in place that year, saying that the boundaries were illegal partisan gerrymanders.
Even though the precise final numbers from the Census Bureau aren’t known, enough data has been gleaned to know that Pennsylvania will lose one congressional district, going from 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to 17.
Other states losing a congressional seat include New York, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and California. States gaining a seat include Colorado, Montana, Florida, Texas, and Oregon.
Partisan control of redistricting loomed large over many of the 2020 state legislative elections, not just in Pennsylvania, but around the country.
For example, former President Obama and his attorney general Eric Holder had formed a Political Action Committee—the National Democratic Redistricting Committee—to try and swing several state house and senate chambers around the country. The expressed hope of the effort was to place more mapmaking control into Democrats’ hands.
Pennsylvania was a prime target of the NDRC. Republicans, however, were able to stave off the challenge and maintained a majority in both chambers.
Even so, the NDRC has filed suit in Commonwealth Court, saying the court should “assume jurisdiction now and establish a schedule that will enable the Court to adopt its own plan in the near certain event that the political branches fail to timely do so.”
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com.