Pennsylvania redistricting has boundary issues

    Pennsylvania lawmakers have started the legislative redistricting process with a vote to approve the latest U.S. Census data as the basis for new district boundaries.

    The green light comes in spite of a small potential problem.

    Lawmakers on the panel agree that it’s a tiny issue, more theoretical than practical.

    About 125 of the more than 9,000 precincts in the state don’t seem to line up well with Census data. The two grids don’t always match, so it’s tough to decide whether people living in the leftover fragments go to one district precinct or another.

    Geography accounts for that–municipalities don’t tend to fit neatly into squares, said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

    “And even the county shapes, are you know, Centre County looks like Woody the Woodpecker’s head. We have some very interesting geographic features in this state,” Arneson said. “And it’s fantastic, but it leads to some odd-looking outlines, no matter how you draw.”

    Lawmakers voted to try to reconcile the boundaries as they work on new district lines.

    They have also approved a website to display redistricting data. It provides the latest Census information that will be used in the redistricting process, the current House and Senate districts and what the districts looked like in 1991.

    Reapportionment is the most important power play of the next decade and the website can help citizens fix potential problems with proposed district lines, said Barry Kauffman of Common Cause PA.

    “This is a great opportunity for citizens to protect their communities in this process, so citizens who care about whether their communities are well represented and served well,” he said. “They should take a look at this and prepare to be at the hearings.”

    Lawmakers have until mid-November to submit a preliminary redistricting plan, which will then be open to public comment for a month.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal