Pennsylvania is drawing new congressional district maps, and Governor Tom Wolf wants your feedback. The way we draw these maps can give communities the opportunity to elect candidates who fight for their concerns.
Why Is This Happening Now?
Once every 10 years, Pennsylvania draws new congressional district maps through the legislative redistricting process following the release of U.S. Census data.
As populations shift, voting district boundaries are updated so that our congressional lawmakers represent a fair portion of the state’s population.
How Could This Affect Me?
The redrawn maps created through the redistricting process could change the boundaries of your voting district or even who represents you.
The redistricting process is now underway for several voting districts, including Pennsylvania’s congressional map for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Redistricting affects how Pennsylvania’s diverse communities are represented.
Who Is Drawing The New Map?
Under state law, the Pennsylvania legislature is tasked with passing a bill defining congressional district boundaries, which is then considered by the governor.
The legislature will debate these maps this fall so that they can be in place for next year’s primary election.
The Governor’s Evaluation
The governor will decide to accept or veto the new map passed by the Pennsylvania legislature.
To help guide the governor’s review, the Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council developed a set of guiding principles of legal, representation, and process recommendations the governor should consider when evaluating the fairness of a congressional redistricting map presented by the General Assembly.
Overview of Redistricting Principles
To serve as a minimal floor of protection so districts have compact and contiguous territory that minimize as many divisions of political subdivisions as practicable.
- Each district should be as nearly equal in population as practicable.
- All territory within a district should connect to the rest of the district and disfavor a district with territory only connected at a narrow single point.
- Provide geographic compactness unless dispersion is required to advance another positive districting principle.
- Prioritize fewer subdivision splits unless necessary to preserve a cohesive–and clearly identified–community of interest.
- Consider whether the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of proposed majority-minority districts.
Principles of Representation
To assure equal representation and fairness so a group’s power is not diluted as a check on partisan gerrymandering.
- Maintain communities of interest.
- Composition of the congressional delegation should be proportional to statewide voter preference.
- Responsive to changing voter preference.
Principles of Process
To help ensure a fair and transparent processes, the public should have an opportunity to provide input, comment, and participation on the map passed by the General Assembly.
- The General Assembly’s proposed map should include an explanation of specific decisions, such as the communities of interest and how they were defined and the factors that led to the creation of a majority-minority districts.
Full Redistricting Principles
Read the Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council’s Redistricting Principles.
Under existing state law, Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are drawn by the General Assembly and passed as a regular statute, subject to veto by the Governor. On September 13, 2021, Governor Wolf issued Executive Order 2021-05 establishing the Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council and charging the Council with developing recommendations for the Governor in evaluating a congressional district map passed by the General Assembly. The Council has identified three types of principles that it believes the Governor should adopt in determining the fairness and propriety of any proposed congressional map presented by the General Assembly. The first are legal principles, drawn from settled constitutional and legal requirements, that serve as a minimal floor of protection against improper maps. Second are principles of representation, three in particular, as described below, that are crucial to assuring equal representation and fairness in a resulting map. Finally, there are procedural principles that should be in place to ensure that Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are drawn through a fair and transparent process.
Legal PrinciplesAs an initial step in analyzing a proposed congressional map, the Council believes that the Governor should evaluate the map’s fidelity to traditional neutral criteria that form a “floor” of protection against the dilution of votes in the creation of districts. The Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution requires that each congressional district be composed of compact and contiguous territory and minimize the division of political subdivisions as practicable. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has noted that the goal is to create “representational districts that both maintain the geographical and social cohesion of the communities in which people live and conduct the majority of their day-to-day affairs.” In addition, any proposed map must comply with the requirements of federal law, including most specifically, the constitutional requirement to maintain population equality among congressional districts and the provisions of the Voting Rights Act as they apply in Pennsylvania. These federal and state legal principles require that, in evaluating a proposed Congressional map, the Governor ensure that these legally mandated elements are complied with, along with other principles noted below.
- – Maintenance of population equality among congressional districts refers to the principle that that each district should be as nearly equal in population as practicable. As a result of the 2020 Census, the ideal Congressional district in Pennsylvania will contain 764,865 residents. In evaluating a map, the Governor should ensure that the deviations in populations between districts comply with the requirements of the Constitution.
- – Assurance of contiguity refers to the principle that all territory within a district connect to the rest of the district. In evaluating a map, the Governor should ensure that all parts of the district are in contact with another part of the district and should disfavor any proposed map in which territory is only connected at a narrow single point.
- – Maintaining compactness refers to the principle that the boundaries of a district should not be irregularly shaped or sprawl unnecessarily from a central area. Evaluation of compactness tends to focus formulaically on the relationship of the district’s perimeter to its area, or the extent to which the district spreads from a central core. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should prioritize plan level geographic compactness unless dispersion is required to advance another positive districting principle, such as preserving communities of interest or avoiding political-subdivision splits.
- – Minimization of division of political subdivisions refers to the principle that local political subdivisions–such as counties or, where possible, municipalities and school districts– not be arbitrarily split into multiple districts. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should prioritize fewer subdivision splits unless a division is necessary to preserve a cohesive–and clearly identified–community of interest.
- – Finally, in certain circumstances, but only in those circumstances, the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of “majority-minority” districts to prevent the denial or abridgement of the right to vote based on race, color, or membership in a language minority. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should independently consider whether the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of proposed majority-minority districts.
Principles of RepresentationAssuming a proposed congressional map from the General Assembly complies with the principles above, the Governor should further evaluate the map to ensure that it does not unfairly dilute the power of a particular group’s vote. Essential to this evaluation are three additional principles of representation which contribute to the ultimate fairness of a proposed map: communities of interest should be maintained, the composition of the congressional delegation should be proportional to statewide voter preference, and the map should be responsive to changing voter preference. These principles operate as a further check on the two features of partisan gerrymandering: the splitting of communities of voters across several districts to dilute their voting power (cracking), and squeezing as many voters of one political interest into just one or a few districts, thereby wasting their votes in those districts, which decreases the likelihood of success elsewhere (packing). In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should consider the extent to which these principles of representation are met, when compared to other potential maps that could have been drawn.
- – Communities of interest are contiguous geographic areas or neighborhoods in which residents share common socio-economic and cultural interests which the residents of the region may seek to translate into effective representation. Examples of shared interests include those common to rural, urban, industrial or agricultural areas, where residents have similar work opportunities, share similar standards of living, use the same transportation facilities, or share common environmental, healthcare, or educational concerns, among others. In statewide listening sessions held by the Council, Pennsylvanians frequently emphasized communities of interest focused around school districts, colleges, industrial corridors, and commuting patterns, and urged particular attention to emerging communities of interest and demographic groups that are growing in Pennsylvania. While a community of interest may be contained within a single political subdivision, they often extend across borders within a region, and may be better represented by regional planning entities such as Councils of Governments. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should consider the extent to which a map preserves cohesive communities of interest, particularly where failure to do so cannot be easily explained by compelling neutral factors outlined above.
- – Ensuring partisan fairness and proportionality requires that parties have the opportunity to translate their popular support into legislative representation with approximately equal efficiency such that the proportion of districts whose voters favor each political party should correlate to the statewide preferences of the voters. Partisan fairness requires preventing structural advantage from being baked into the map so as to allow one party to more efficiently translate votes into seats in the delegation. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should analyze how it would have performed in a full range of prior statewide elections when compared to other potential maps which could have been drawn. A map with expected performance proportional to statewide voter preference should be favored as comporting with broad principles of fairness.
- – Responsiveness and competitiveness require that there are enough districts “in play” that changes in electoral sentiment can translate into clear changes in the overall composition of the congressional delegation. A competitive district is one in which the electoral outcome is close enough that the district can change with shifting voter preferences. A responsive map is one with enough competitive districts to allow for changes in the composition of the delegation with changes in proportion of votes for the parties. Voters should not be deprived of their choice and a fair opportunity to elect candidates they support. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should analyze how it would have performed in a full range of prior statewide elections and favor a map with districts where partisan swings were reflected in changes in the congressional delegation.
Principles of ProcessBeyond both the floor of protection and the additional checks on a partisan gerrymander endorsed above, it is critical that the map passed by the General Assembly be the result of a process that provides an opportunity for meaningful public input, comment, and participation. In the Council’s listening sessions, many participants pointed to the public processes that have accompanied citizen-mapping efforts over the past several months as exemplifying the level of transparency that is expected. Procedural fairness begins with strong engagement with members of the public as to their priorities for the redistricting process, with particular focus on hearing about what ordinary Pennsylvanians identify as their communities of interest. And when the General Assembly’s proposed map is shared publicly, a process of robust public engagement and transparency dictates that there be a public record accompanying the map setting forth why specific decisions were made as they were. For instance, if certain counties were split in the map the public is entitled to know the justification for doing so. Likewise, if the proposed map prioritizes specific communities of interest, the public should be told what those communities are and how they were defined. If majorityminority districts are created, there should be a discussion of the factors that resulted in the minority group’s denial of equal opportunity to participate in the political processes. In evaluating a proposed map, the Governor should disfavor any map that is made public and passed quickly with limited legislative debate or opportunity for public consideration. In addition, the Governor should more closely scrutinize any map that is not accompanied by a public record or narrative which explains the rationale for decisions which were made.
How Can I Get Involved?
Share your vision online
To increase community engagement with this critical process, Governor Tom Wolf has established a Pennsylvania Redistricting Public Comment Portal to allow citizens to provide input on the congressional redistricting process.
Draw and submit your own proposed voting district map, and see how other Pennsylvanians would like to see the commonwealth redistricted using the Pennsylvania Redistricting Public Comment Portal.
Maps, communities of interest, and comments shared via the portal will be considered by the governor as he works with the Pennsylvania legislature to develop new Congressional maps for the next decade.
Watch a listening session
Governor Tom Wolf tasked members of his Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council to hold listening sessions throughout the commonwealth to gather public feedback on congressional redistricting.
In-person listening sessions have concluded, but you can still watch them below or submit your vision using the Pennsylvania Redistricting Public Comment Portal.
|October 18 at 5:30 p.m.||Rachel Carson State Office Building||Brennan Hall, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101||Harrisburg Redistricting Event Video|
|October 22 at 11:00 a.m.||Point Park University||Center for Media Innovation, 305 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222||Pittsburgh Redistricting Event Video|
|October 25 at 5:00 p.m.||West Chester University||Swope Music Building, 817 S. High Street, West Chester, PA 19382||West Chester Redistricting Event Video|
|October 27 at 11:00 a.m.||Penn State Behrend||Pat Black III Conference Center, 5101 Jordan Road, Erie, PA 16563||Erie Redistricting Event Video|
|October 29 at 11:00 a.m.||Drexel University||Creese Student Center, 3210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104||Philadelphia Redistricting Event Video|
|November 1 at 11:00 a.m.||Penn State Main Campus||HUB-Robeson Center, 201 Old Main State College, University Park, PA 16802||University Park Redistricting Event Video|
|November 3 at 5:30 p.m.||Mansfield University||Manser Hall, 31 S. Academy Street, Mansfield, PA 16933||Mansfield Redistricting Event Video|
|November 4 at 5:30 p.m.||University of Scranton||800 Linden Street, Scranton, PA 18510||Scranton Redistricting Event Video|
|November 8 at 6:00 p.m.||Virtual listening session||Virtual Event Video|