‘People’s Maps’ Offer A Redistricting Alternative

The state Capitol in Harrisburg (at top), where redistricting boundaries are being decided

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
For The Posts

HARRISBURG PA – Members of Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission anticipate releasing proposed maps for new state House and Senate voting districts by November’s end. An advocacy group interested in creating fairer district boundaries is presenting its own suggested maps for consideration as redistricting moves ahead.

The commission certified U.S. census data sets as usable for its purposes on Oct. 25 (2021; Thursday). From that date, the commission has 90 days to produce preliminary state House and Senate district maps.

The advocates of Fair Districts PA claim its ready-for-review alternative “People’s Maps” split fewer towns and cities than the current House and Senate maps. They also create six more majority-minority House districts than the current one.

Michael Skros, who worked on the People’s Maps, says the group listened to communities of interest in a map-making process he thinks could be a model for the General Assembly. “I think it also reflects the goal of a Legislature and how legislation should be made in general … by taking everyone’s concerns into account, hearing expert testimony, and working to compromise on a solution,” he said.

The Fair Districts PA draft maps began with winning submissions in a special competition. It then incorporated ideas and feedback from more than 1,000 residents across the state. The group officially provided its alternative maps to the commission last week. Now it’s seeking public comment on them through Sunday (Nov. 7, 2021).

Jim Hertzler, a retired Cumberland County commissioner, became involved with Fair Districts PA a decade ago. He said he was frustrated by the last redistricting process because, with little notice, 12 municipalities in his county’s western portion were moved into completely different districts. Hertzler said he hopes the commission reviews the group’s maps as it again redraws state House and Senate lines.

“Gerrymandering of the districts has led to enclaves of partisans that essentially serve the party as opposed to the state,” Hertzler said. “If we have a fair process, we have a better chance of actually getting the work of the people done.”

Photo by The Posts