Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pennsylvania lawmakers to take first steps toward new congressional map

Keith Srakocic

A key state House committee has homed in on a proposed map of Pennsylvania's new U.S. congressional districts, and could vote to advance it as early as next week.

State Rep. Seth Grove of York County said Wednesday the proposal was selected among 19 submitted by the public. Grove said the map was chosen by the State Government Committee because he deemed it to be drawn without political influence, meet constitutional standards, limit splits of townships and other municipalities and offer districts that are compact and contiguous.

It was drawn by Amanda Holt, a piano teacher and graphic artist from the Lehigh Valley whose alternative General Assembly redistricting planhelped persuade the state Supreme Court in 2012 to order the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to revise its proposal for new districts after the 2010 Census.

This year, Pennsylvania's congressional delegation is dropping from 18 to 17 because its population of about 13 million grew by 2.4% over the past decade, more slowly than many other states.

The House committee vote would be the first step in a process that is likely to result in changes to Holt's proposal, perhaps drastic changes, before a final decision is made. The new districts have to be approved by majorities in both houses of the General Assembly and get the governor's signature before taking effect.

Senate Democratic caucus spokesperson Brittany Crampsie said Wednesday that two senators, a Democrat from Philadelphia and Republican from central Pennsylvania, plan to introduce a jointly sponsored congressional map in the Senate next week, expecting votes in committee and on the Senate floor in January.

Any final product could be the subject of a court challenge, as occurred when the Democratic majority state Supreme Court in 2018 threw out what was a Republican-drawn congressional map. In a state closely divided between the major parties, Pennsylvania Republicans had enjoyed a 13-5 majority in the U.S. Congress, but during two subsequent elections the delegation has been split 9-9, and in 2020 all 18 incumbents ran and all were reelected.

If Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature deadlock on drawing a congressional district map, the state Supreme Court may again end up performing the task. Time is tight, with candidates and their supporters scheduled to begin circulating nominating petitions on Feb. 15 to get on the ballot. The primary is currently scheduled for May 17.

The map keeps major features of the existing districts intact, such as maintaining a Bucks County-based seat, a Lehigh Valley-based seat and two Pittsburgh-area and two Philadelphia-based seats. But it would shift the heavily Democratic city of Harrisburg into a district with GOP dominated Lancaster County — and out of a district with York now represented by Republican Rep. Scott Perry — while squeezing four districts that cover a large swath of rural northern and central Pennsylvania down to three.

Two incumbents, Pittsburgh-area Democratic U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb and Mike Doyle, are not seeking reelection in 2022.

Grove said his committee will meet to discuss the proposal Thursday evening in the state Capitol and is expected to vote on it early Monday.

The Legislature's district lines are drawn by a five-member commission whose work is continuing.