Pa.’s redistricting process is more transparent than ever, but not many people are participating

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Maps are being drawn that will decide Pennsylvania’s political future. The state leaders involved in the process are asking for your feedback, but aren’t getting that much of it.

Every 10 years Pennsylvania draws new congressional district maps in a process called redistricting. That often changes the voting boundaries and which lawmakers represent which people.

Both chambers of the legislature have to pass a bill which outlines the new maps and then the governor has to approve it.

On Monday, the House State Government Committee held a public hearing about the redistricting, and the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Council held one as well.

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The goal is to get input from as many people as possible, but turnout has been low. Less than 10 people came to speak at both of the hearings combined, with a few more submitting written comments.

Representative Seth Grove is the chair of the House State Government Committee and has been running the hearings. He says they’d always love more participation, but he’s glad they get the chance to hear from those who are interested.

“It is what it is, we provide as much access as we can,” Grove said.

Beth Campbell is part of the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Council, tasked with guiding Gov. Wolf through his review of the legislature’s maps.

“It is representatives elected from these districts that go down and act as the voice of Pennsylvanians in Washington D.C. So it’s really important, I believe, for the people of Pennsylvania to be able to have their voices heard,” Campbell said.

So why aren’t more people showing up? Rep. Grove says it’s a combination of factors, but many people are more involved in critiquing the results, rather than doing the work to get there.

“This is the prework in developing maps. I think more people are interested in the actual maps. But that doesn’t help us develop maps,” Grove said. “That input at the front end is much better than complaining at the back end.”

Even if there isn’t a ton of participation, the leaders believe transparency matters. “I think the fact that there’s an invitation, that we had this available to people is important,” Campbell said.

Jean Handley is an advocate with Fair Districts PA and was one of the speakers at the council’s meeting. “These hearings, man, I mean they’re great,” Handley said. “I am hopeful because as I said, this is the first time they’ve had this much public input.”

Last time around, Pennsylvania’s map was so gerrymandered it had to be redrawn by the state’s supreme court. The hope is to avoid that this time.

“What does the electorate really want and what can we garnish from that? And how do we develop a better map that doesn’t end up in court?” Grove said.

Pennsylvania is losing one of its congressional seats because its population isn’t growing as fast as some other states. That means there will only be 17 districts, instead of 18. There are still several public hearings left for those who want to give their input about redistricting.

You can find information about the House State Government Committee’s hearings here. You can find information about the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Council’s hearings here. If you want to submit feedback or a map design online you can do that here.

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