New Congressional Map Passes Pennsylvania Senate; Wolf’s Veto Anticipated


A proposed congressional map passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives earlier this month passed the state Senate unchanged on Monday, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

In urging colleagues to approve the redistricting plan, Senate State Government Committee Majority Chairman David Argall (R-Mahanoy City) emphasized that the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has insisted on enactment of a new map by January 30. The court has indicated it will select a map if Gov. Tom Wolf (D) does not sign one by that date. 

“Because time is running short due to the impending action in the courts, I would urge an affirmative vote on [the House plan] so that this bill can indeed be considered by the governor if our negotiations fail to reach a bipartisan solution,” Argall said.

At this writing, it appears one deadline is already blown: The Pennsylvania Department of State has stipulated that the governor and legislators should finalize a map by Monday, January 24, and Wolf has already indicated his intention to veto the plan lawmakers passed. The department has said its deadline would have allowed election officials and candidates to thoroughly prepare for the May 17, 2022 primaries.

In their floor remarks on the House legislation, Senate Democrats seemed unmoved by calls for haste, instead echoing a judgment Wolf has expressed that the plan is too skewed toward Republican electoral advantage.

“Clearly it is a partisan map that significantly benefits the Republican Party, something that certainly we are not in support of on this side of the aisle,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Pittsburgh) said. “The governor has clearly indicated that he will veto this Republican congressional map.”

Argall countered there was no such partisan gerrymandering in the map under consideration, arguing that it optimally balances constitutional requirements for compact districts, minimal community splits and minority representation.

“It’s not a perfect map,” he said. “Guess what? There is no such thing as a perfect map. But I do believe that you will certainly, with a very clear eye, see that it is a much improved map over previous maps approved over the years in the House [and] in the Senate by both Republicans and Democrats.”

States must remap their congressional districts once every 10 years to align with new population shifts revealed by the U.S. Census. The most recent Census report was significantly delayed last year because of COVID-19, in turn delaying the Keystone State’s redistricting process. 

Because Pennsylvania has not seen robust population growth relative to other states, it will lose one congressional seat, leaving a delegation of 17. The Republicans’ reapportionment plan would make it harder for Democrats to hold a few of those seats, particularly those presently held by U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and Conor Lamb (D-PA-17). It also would slightly improve reelection prospects for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), a moderate Republican who has repeatedly landed on Democrats’ target list. 

Nonetheless, the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the House Republicans’ proposal an overall “B” grade. Princeton’s analysts gave the map high marks for both “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness,” calling the plan “very competitive relative to other maps that could have been drawn.”

Republicans have also touted the fact that the map they are advancing is largely the work of one citizen advocate, Amanda Holt of Lehigh County, though her plan did undergo some changes in the House State Government Committee. The map she created was one of 19 that various state residents submitted online to that committee. 

And while Wolf has criticized the GOP for embracing a set of new districts that supposedly encumber his own party, he has himself expressed interest in enacting either of two maps that would aid Democrats. His office designed one of those maps; the left-leaning Draw the Lines PA constructed the other.

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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 “Tom Wolf” by Governor Tom Wolf. CC BY 2.0. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Governor Tom Wolf. CC BY 2.0.






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