Lehigh County resident Amanda Holt submitted the map in its original form. The slightly modified version of the plan received the support of all committee Republicans except Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie) and no Democrats.
The congressional map to come out of legislative deliberations must divide the Keystone State into 17 districts, one fewer than it now has, because Pennsylvania’s population growth has not kept pace with the rest of America. The plan committee Republicans voted to bring before the full state House of Representatives would markedly impact a number of congressional districts considered competitive and now represented by Democrats.
For instance, the map would expand the state’s 8th Congressional District, currently held by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08), westward into the conservative counties of Bradford, Susquehanna and Wyoming. It would also broaden the western side of the 7th Congressional District, now held by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA-07), into conservative northern Berks county. The 6th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06), would keep the deep-blue city of Reading but expand into redder areas of Berks County and lose the liberal Chester County communities of West Chester and Kennett Square.
Also consequentially, the new proposal would lower the southern end of the Pittsburgh-area 17th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA-17), into right-leaning Washington County.
A Republican congressman in a competitive region who would see slightly favorable change is Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), who represents the Bucks County-based 1st Congressional District. The section of Montgomery County contained in that district would shift west under the new plan, picking up a few more conservative communities.
Holt’s plan was one of 19 submitted online to the House State Government Committee by Pennsylvania residents. The Holt map was largely kept intact, though the present version contains some modifications; for example, it keeps Blair County whole within a central Pennsylvania congressional district.
“I am proud to announce that a citizen’s map, not a map drawn by legislators, has been introduced for consideration by the General Assembly, and for the first time in Pennsylvania history is posted for public view and comment,” Grove said. “The introduction of this map is a starting point, and we look forward to hearing the thoughts of residents across Pennsylvania about how this map would impact their community and how they are represented in Washington, D.C.”
Mackenzie said he voted against moving the modified Holt plan to the full Pennsylvania House because he felt that while the committee has been open and transparent, more time may be needed for public input on this particular plan before it moves out of committee.
“We have laid out a process that I think has been very good so far,” he told colleagues. “But there is still more time to go.”
Democrats balked altogether at supporting the map.
“I don’t see where the Democratic members of state government were brought into this process in any way,” State Rep. Maureen Madden (D-Stroudsburg) said.
At a committee hearing on Monday, State Government Committee Minority Chair Scott Conklin (D-State College) noted that congressional redistricting will this time be decided between a Republican General Assembly and a Democratic governor. By contrast, the 2000 and 2010 redistricting processes were determined with the GOP controlling both of those branches. (Redistricting is undertaken every decade after the completion of the U.S. Census.)
“Without the governor involved in these negotiations, it’s quite clear what’s going to happen at the end of the day,” Conklin said. “It’s most probably going to be a veto. So to be totally transparent and to be forthright, I do not believe a non-negotiated bill, no matter what it is, will pass and it’s a waste of time of not only this committee but the legislative body itself.”
The Pennsylvania General Assembly is likewise tasked with creating its own new district maps for both the House and the Senate. The state’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider issues related to those maps.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Governor Tom Wolf CC BY 2.0.