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Pennsylvania Republicans seek public input on redistricting plans

KYW Radio Philadelphia logo KYW Radio Philadelphia 7/12/2021 Jim Melwert
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature are looking for feedback on their plans to draw up new congressional maps.

The process is based on legislation introduced by Bucks County Republican state Rep. Wendi Thomas.

“The people of the commonwealth, for the first time, will be able to make their suggestions either in person at hearings or online,” she said.

The website, paredistricting.com, will let people use data from the U.S. Census Bureau to draw their own maps. It will also let people create boundaries or hubs to define what are labeled “communities of interest.”

The first of 10 public hearings will be held in Harrisburg later this month. There are two scheduled for southeastern Pennsylvania in September — one in Philadelphia and another at a to-be-determined location in the suburbs.

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Redistricting happens every 10 years based on the latest census data. Pennsylvania will lose one of its 18 congressional seats this year because of the declining population.

The maps must be approved by the Legislature and the governor’s office.

In 2011, Republicans held the Legislature and the governor’s office, but the maps they drew were tossed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2018.

Under this plan, House Republican leader Kerry Benninghoff said the redistricting process would be the most open and transparent in history.

The House State Government Committee will host the hearings. Committee chair Seth Grove said maps generally need to be done by December.

“They know what’s happening in their local communities; so do the individuals there,” Grove added. “So it’s critically important we have their information as we develop maps moving forward.”

Redistricting reform groups had pushed for legislation to appoint an independent council to draw the maps, rather than politicians, but that legislation appears to be dead in the water.

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