Pa. approach to redistricting draws criticism

    Later this year, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly will pass a bill redrawing the state’s congressional districts. Some government reform advocates want to change the way the process works.

    A special bipartisan commission will redraw state House and Senate boundaries, but congressional districts are formed through the regular legislative process.

    Barry Kaufman of Common Cause PA doesn’t like the approach.

    “Common Cause believes that this is a bad idea, in that it both exposes legislators to pressure from federal politicians, and involves the legislators in potential conflicts of interest, as a result of voting on the form of districts in which they may plan to run themselves someday,” he said, arguing for an independent panel at a recent redistricting hearing.

    Republicans control the House, Senate and governor’s office, so GOP lawmakers will be able to shape the boundaries in a way that helps Republican incumbents as Pennsylvania loses a congressional seat this year. Daryl Metcalfe, who heads the House committee that will help draw the new boundaries, says eliminating a district will be challenging.

    “When you’re shrinking from 19 members in Congress to 18, you have to grow the districts. And somebody’s going to lose a congressman. We as a state are going to lose a congressman. I think that’s our greatest challenge,” he said. Because of the GOP hold on Harrisburg, the new map will likely merge two incumbent Democrats’ districts.

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