Pennsylvania's Redistricting News
(January 4, 2001-September 27, 2001)

 

 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Democrats Hurt by Redistricting Seething Loudly." September 27, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Redistricting Zaps Mayernik, Kaiser." September 26, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Redrawing Not Likely to Please 3 in House." September 25, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Legislature Girds for Battle of the Boundaries." September 23, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette : State House Near Accord on Redrawing Legislative Districts." September 20, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette : "Region to Lose as Legislative Map is Redrawn." September 2, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "2nd GOP redistricting plan rankles Democrats."  August 30, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "GOP plan would eliminate Bodack's seat." August 21, 2001
 
Morning Call: "Once upon a time, redistricting turned Pennsylvania lawmaker into a couch potato." August 19, 2001
 Washington Post: "In Pa., Bipartisan Gloves Come Off." August 12, 2001
 Washington Times: "Inside Politics (excerpt)." July 31, 2001
 Associated Press: "Redistricting outcomes often unpredictable." April 8, 2001
 Associated Press: "Latino group formed to focus on election redistricting." April 7, 2001
 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Healthy pulse even for Pennsylvania, the Census news isn't all bad." January 4, 2001

More recent redistricting news from Pennsylvania

 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Democrats Hurt by Redistricting Seething Loudly
By James O'Toole
September 27, 2001

Political futures shaped by new constituents, lost constituents, and, in at least two cases, no constituents, have stirred emotions ranging from gratitude to outrage among local lawmakers.

"It was sort of like walking around a corner and getting sucker-punched," said Rep. Ralph Kaiser, D-Brentwood, a veteran legislator who found his district eliminated after this term and now faces the difficult decision of whether to run in next year's primary against a friend and colleague, Rep Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick.

Kaiser and other aggrieved legislators described the new political map unveiled Tuesday as an instrument of revenge shaped by power-coveting leaders of their own caucus.

"They're lizards eating their own," said Rep. Tom Michlovic, D-North Braddock.

Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, is a Democratic leader and key architect of the districts that Western Pennsylvania House members will represent over the next decade. He defended the new map as the product of sometimes painful, but inevitable decisions dictated by the arithmetic of the 2000 Census. He acknowledged that political considerations, including loyalty to Democratic caucus positions, influenced those decisions but insisted that such factors were secondary to long-term demographic and political strategies.

"I certainly understand the personal reactions from members who lost their seats, and members who didn't believe in the strategy we used in redistricting," Veon said, "but our job as caucus leaders was to look at the entire state and keep as many seats in play as we possibly could."

As part of the plan crafted by a bipartisan commission in Harrisburg, House Democratic leaders were charged with drawing new legislative boundaries in Western Pennsylvania. House Republicans took the lead in the eastern part of the state.

One of the three lost Western Pennsylvania seats came in Washington County, where Veon and company took advantage of the planned retirement of Rep. Leo Trich. The other two guillotined districts were those Allegheny County Democrats Kaiser, and Rep. David Mayernik, D-Ross, who share a history of occasionally casting votes with the chamber's GOP majority.

"I'm still shell-shocked that they did this," Kaiser said as he drove home from Harrisburg yesterday afternoon. "I have not lost a single [voting district] since 1990; there's no way they can say this isn't a Democratic district."

When the new map takes effect next year, Kaiser will share a district with Readshaw. About half of the district is now represented by Readshaw and only about 25 percent by Kaiser. The balance is part of the current district of Rep. Michael Diven, D-Beechview, who retained his seat but was so livid at its new configuration that he sent off an irate e-mail denouncing the Democratic leadership to the entire Legislature.

Mayernik said he planned to run for re-election, but didn't yet know where, given the way his current district is to be fragmented. Kaiser said he hasn't decided what he'll do. "Harry's a gentleman; he's my friend. We were both taken aback," Kaiser said.

"This goes back to the 1991 tax vote," he added, referring to a controversial tax increase in which he voted against the position of House leadership and the administration of the late Gov. Robert Casey. "They have a long memory. What has happened over the years is that they drive independent Democrats away. All they're concerned about is their own power."

Mike Manzo, chief of staff to House Democratic Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, insisted that the choices of the Mayernik and Kaiser seats for elimination were purely a function of the district's voting trends. Aside from the legislators' elections themselves, he said, the Mayernik and Kaiser districts had among the lowest Democratic voting performances of any districts in the region over the past decade. Asked what role the legislators' maverick stances might have played in the elimination of their seats, Manzo said, "None; it was pure math."

Veon was more forthcoming in analyzing the shifts. "It certainly was a factor if you're looking for seats to eliminate," he said of the lawmakers' voting records. "[Republican leader]John Perzel has been quoted -- it's a quote I have on my desk -- that he has one Democrat he's been talking to who was going to switch parties."

Veon said he didn't know for sure who the likely switcher was, but added that, among possible suspects, "[Mayernik and Kaiser] are in my top four."

Another Democrat angered by the leadership's decisions was Rep Tom Michlovic, D-North Braddock. The veteran Democrat wasn't personally hurt by the new map. He announced his plans to retire earlier this month, and had assumed that the elimination of his Mon Valley seat would provide an opportunity to ease the redistricting pain for Democratic incumbents. Instead, the new map leaves his seat open.

"I think it was purely a matter of personalities," Michlovic said. "DeWeese and Veon just didn't want to deal with people like Mayernik, Kaiser and Readshaw. I frankly don't think these people are interested in regaining the majority. They're just interested in preserving their own personal power."

Michlovic charged that one of the few changes made to the seat he is relinquishing was done as a prospective reward to a veteran Democratic loyalist, former state representative and former County Council member Richard Olasz.

"Obviously, they made the district for him, anyone who looks at it can see it," Michlovic said, noting that it was changed to include Olasz's home community of West Mifflin. Veon would not comment on that suggestion, saying only, "The lines drawn speak for themselves."

Olasz, now a candidate for West Mifflin council, could not be reached for comment on whether he might run for the Legislature next year. But another lawmaker said that he suspected the change in the Michlovic district was made not as a favor to Olasz but to help Rep. Kenneth Ruffing, the incumbent Democrat who ousted Olasz in the 1998 Democratic primary. Under the new map, Ruffing and Olasz will reside in different districts so that Ruffing would not have to fear a rematch..

Rep. Frank Dermody, the chairman of the county's Democratic delegation, argued against some of Veon's decisions on the Allegheny County map, but has more sympathy than some of his colleagues toward the political tensions that the Democratic leadership had to accommodate in shaping it.

"I'm from Allegheny County, I want to save seats in Allegheny County; Veon didn't see it that way," Dermody said. "But you have to realize, this redistricting process was bound to make some people unhappy. You can't get around the fact that redistricting is a selfish process. People who have districts [preserved] are happy; people who don't are going to be mad. Someone was going to be mad one way or another, but my point is that it you could have had fewer people mad."

"We had strong disagreements," Veon said of Dermody. "He argued strenuously in opposition to the plan we proposed. I understand he was doing his job as head of the delegation. We had a different job as the heads of the caucus for the entire state."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Redistricting Zaps Mayernik, Kaiser; Bodack's Senate Seat Kept Intact
By John M.R. Bull
September 26, 2001

State Sen. Leonard Bodack will keep his Lawrenceville seat, but two state representatives from the Pittsburgh area are facing political extermination from new electoral district lines approved yesterday by a panel dominated by legislative leaders.

House Democratic leaders wanted to terminate state Rep. David Mayernik's political career, and the new legislative district lines approved yesterday diced his constituency into seven other districts throughout the North Hills and West suburbs.

Mayernik's home now sits in a newly configured House district that stretches northwest from Bellevue and part of Ross through part of Franklin Park deep into Beaver County, a district now represented by Democrat Susan Laughlin of Ambridge. The rest of what was his district was turned over to neighboring lawmakers. Mayernik was left with scant chance of re-election.

"They terminated me," he said. "This was Politics 101. It sends a message: Don't step out of line. Right now, I expect to be running. I'm just not sure where I'll be running."

Democratic leaders for years have been angry with Mayernik for crossing party lines and voting with Republicans and otherwise bucking caucus leaders.

Another Democratic lawmaker on the outs with his leaders, Ralph Kaiser of Brentwood, found his district merged with the neighboring district of Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick.

The two will face each other in next year's election. An analysis of voting patterns in the new, combined district shows that Kaiser will be at a disadvantage.

He said he was disappointed, but he seemed more upset over Mayernik's plight.

"They cut him up like a Thanksgiving turkey," Kaiser said.

The Democratic leader who maneuvered to have Mayernik and either Kaiser or Readshaw lose their seats through redistricting said it wasn't personal.

"I like all these characters and I find charm and political vitality in all these members," said House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg. But he said Mayernik had to go or the Democrats would risk him "slipping even more into the embrace of John Perzel," the Philadelphia Republican who is House majority leader.

On the other side of the aisle, maverick Republican John Lawless of Montgomery County saw his district eviscerated by leaders of his party, leaving him ripe for a re-election loss. Lawless has a tendency to tell his party's secrets to the news media, and his leaders, as a result, wanted him gone.

"They shafted me. They took away my base," said Lawless, who promised to either run for re-election or mount a challenge for a state Senate seat. "This was about cowards at work. This is about paying the debts to the boys."

Redistricting is done every 10 years to reflect population shifts identified in the U.S. census. Every House and Senate district in the state was changed to some extent. For example, the 40th House District, now held by John A. Maher, a Republican, will pick up a large chunk of Bethel Park that was not previously included in his district of Peters and Upper St. Clair.

Boundaries for the new districts -- approved by a reapportionment panel composed of the four caucus leaders in the House and Senate and chaired by retired state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro Jr. -- may be changed slightly in the next two months but are not expected to change substantially before gaining final approval in November.

On the Senate side, Democrats won their battle to keep intact the seat held by Bodack.

Senate Republicans had sought to have Bodack's district moved to the Poconos, one of the most rapidly growing parts of the state. But Montemuro privately told Republican leaders he wouldn't go for that.

In the end, he let Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have the final say on new district lines in Western Pennsylvania. In Eastern Pennsylvania, he gave Republicans that authority.

Senate districts in the Pittsburgh area were reshaped extensively, but at no apparent political cost to incumbents.

The 40th Senatorial District of Jane Orie, R-McCandless, was extended north to take in several additional Butler County communties.

Several West suburbs, including Moon, Findlay and North Fayette, were switched from Sen. Jack Wagner's 42nd District to Sen. Tim Murphy's 37th. Wagner is a Democrat, Murphy a Republican.

Wagner's district grew southward, taking in Castle Shannon, Dormont, Green Tree and Scott, all of which were formerly represented by Murphy.

Districts in the city's eastern suburbs -- held by Bodack, Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, and Sean Logan, D-Monroeville -- were spread north and east, with Bodack's district meandering as far east as Kiskiminetas and Bell in Westmoreland County.

The top Senate Democrat, Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, said the new lines were fair. His Republican counterpart, David "Chip" Brightbill, said it was the best that could be hoped for, in that Montemuro refused to allow wholesale changes.

The most dramatic changes were to House districts.

Mayernik's 29th Legislative District was moved to Bucks County, Kaiser's 41st District was reconstituted in Lancaster County and the 47th District seat now held by Leo J. Trich Jr., D-Washington, was moved to York County.

Trich is retiring. The area he now represents will be divided among neighboring districts now represented by Timothy Solobay of Canonsburg, Peter J. Daley II of California and Victor Lescovitz of Midway, all Democrats.

A fourth seat, in Philadelphia, was moved because of declining population. It will be in Monroe County in the Poconos. That seat is held by Republican Chris Wogan, who is stepping down to become a judge.

Because the population has shifted in the last 10 years away from the traditionally Democratic strongholds of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia into the more Republican-dominated suburbs, the Republican caucus stands to pick up some seats as a result of the redistricting.

Perzel said he was quite happy about the new district boundaries and predicted that the Republican caucus would gain seats after next year's election, likely adding four seats to its current majority of 104 and knocking the Democrats back to 95 seats.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Redrawing Not Likely to Please 3 in House
By John M.R. Bull
September 25, 2001

When the new boundaries for state House districts are unveiled today, expect three longtime representatives to be unhappy.

The district held by Rep. Dave Mayernik, D-Ross, is expected to be carved up and distributed to neighboring districts, leaving him without a power base and ripe for a re-election loss next year.

And Rep. Ralph Kaiser, D-Brentwood, will see his district merged with that of Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick. Democratic leaders who helped draw the new boundaries have been upset with Mayernik and Kaiser for occasionally voting with the Republican majority.

The third lawmaker expected to be upset when he sees the lines for his district is Rep. John Lawless, R-Montgomery, a maverick who has bucked his party's leadership for years and now will pay the price.

The new boundaries are being drawn to reflect population shifts identified by the U.S. Census. Pittsburgh and its suburbs lost population to the fast-growing northeastern part of the state, so three seats from the west must be eliminated.

Along with the seats held by Mayernik and Kaiser, the third to be eliminated is that of Rep. Leo Trich, D-North Franklin, who several weeks ago announced his retirement.

The five-member panel in charge of drawing the new district boundaries is to meet this morning to unveil maps of new House and Senate district lines and approve them. The public and lawmakers will have 30 days to comment on the plan. After that, there may be some tinkering with the maps but substantial changes are unlikely before they are given final approval in November.

The new lines for the House have been worked out in compromises by leaders of the Republican and Democratic caucuses. Both leaders -- John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, and H. Willliam DeWeese, D-Waynesburg -- are part of the redistricting panel.

The two state Senate caucus leaders -- Sen. David "Chip" Brightbill, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna -- are also on the panel but they have not reached many compromises on Senate districts.

The fifth member of the panel, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro Jr., holds a possible deciding vote in the Senate impasse.

Brightbill wants the seat held by Sen. Leonard Bodack, D-Lawrenceville, to be eliminated and moved across the state, reflecting population loss in Western Pennsylvania coupled with growth in the northeastern part of the state.

Democrats say the population shift was insufficient to justify redistricting an incumbent from office. They oppose moving Bodack's district and contend that minor changes to current district lines will be enough.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Legislature Girds for Battle of the Boundaries
By John M.R. Bull
September 23, 2001

The political battle over how to draw the boundaries of state legislative districts and which two congressional seats to eliminate is likely to overshadow everything else here when state lawmakers return tomorrow from a 13-week summer recess.

A myriad of other issues will percolate over the next few months, and perhaps even be resolved before the end of the year.

But the once-a-decade fight over redrawing district lines will dominate.

In some political circles, there is talk of nothing else.

Steve MacNett, who helps run the Senate Republican caucus, shrugged when asked what issues are on his caucus' agenda for the fall.

"Oh, I don't know," he said. "We'll have to evaluate that. We've been kind of busy on other things."

MacNett has been de facto chief of staff for the Republican caucus for years. His fingerprints are on just about every major piece of legislation brought for a vote. He has been heavily involved for months in how to draw the Senate district lines to reflect shifts in population identified in the last census. His caucus is pushing for the elimination of Democratic state Sen. Leonard Bodack's Lawrenceville seat and the creation of one controlled by Republican votes in the Poconos. They expect a political war over that.

Senate Democrats are furious, saying Republicans aren't even willing to listen to other options.

All this comes before preliminary redistricting plans have been unveiled. That will come Tuesday, when the state's five-member reapportionment commission -- made up of Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate and chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro -- will vote. The commission has the final say on how the districts for the state House and Senate are configured, but that won't stop legislators from lobbying the commission hard and using the floor of the House and Senate to make their arguments.

After the maps are unveiled, there is room for some tinkering, and pretty much every legislator will be after their caucus leaders to make changes, said state Sen. Allen Kukovich, D-Manor, who helped the House set new legislative district lines 10 years ago when he served in that chamber.

"That will be on everybody's mind," he said. "After 10 years working to help a community, to lose that community to another district is a matter for consternation. You have to deal with 203 personalities, and what changes are made to one district ripples to another and another. From now until the final plan is adopted, it will be on everybody's mind."

On the House side, caucus leaders have worked out compromises on the new boundaries for most House districts across the state, but Republicans and Democrats could end up at each other's throats over which three Democrat seats must disappear from Western Pennsylvania.

And which two congressional districts must go will surely cause a ruckus.

State lawmakers must eliminate two of the state's 21 congressional seats. Pennsylvania gained population, but not as much as other states, so two of the state's districts must go to make room in Congress for new representatives from other states.

Redrawing the state's congressional district boundaries will be done in the form of a bill in the state Legislature. Majority vote wins. There is no pretense this bill will be anything but blatant partisan politics. Republicans hold a 29-20 advantage in the Senate, and a 104-99 majority in the House.

Expect the Democrats to howl when two heavily Democratic congressional districts are eliminated and other district lines are redrawn so that incumbent Democrats must run against each other, giving Republican candidates a chance to capture those seats.

Various lawmakers and staffers say other issues are likely to surface over the next few months, as well.

And some long-standing issues are likely to gain renewed life in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Five bills have been crafted to mandate flying the American flag in schools, force schoolchildren to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem daily, or all of the above.

Another bill would make it a felony to call in a phony bomb threat during an emergency. Currently, it's a misdemeanor.

Firefighters, whose valor and heroics were on display to a nation, now have increased political clout and might be successful in forcing the state Senate to approve a bill that would grant workers' compensation to firefighters who contract Hepatitis C, a blood-born illness whose symptoms often don't show for years.

Philadelphia has balked at covering infected firefighters, but Pittsburgh does.

A related issue might come to the forefront over the next few months. State House Democrats are expected to push for passage of a bill that would dole out $45 million in grants to volunteer firefighter and ambulance companies. That bill met an unreceptive response in the House in the spring.

"Firefighters are a significant force" now, noted Steve Drachler, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, who opposed the grant proposal.

What to do about skyrocketing prescription drug prices is likely to take on greater importance as it becomes clearer in the next few months that any available federal funds will go to the war on terrorism.

State Republican lawmakers have held off on doing much about prescription drugs, saying the federal government will come up with a national fix to the problem. That doesn't seem likely at this point.

"It's irrefutable that this definitely is just a state issue now," said Mike Manzo, chief of staff for H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg, the top House Democrat.

Some other new things scheduled for the fall include the House Democrats unveiling 18 position papers on issues that include energy, the economy, health care and education. It will be an effort to lay the groundwork for House races next year and for the gubernatorial election that is expected to heat up in the spring, Manzo said.

Democrats also will hold so-called a "Listening Tour" across the state, to give citizens a chance to air their grievances. Republicans will hold an economic summit Oct. 11 at four sites across the state, including the University of Pittsburgh.

State Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, and state Sen. Allyson Schwartz, D-Philadelphia, are expected to push for a measure that would allow biomedical research on embryonic stem cells to be done within the state's borders. The state's Abortion Control Act prohibits fetal tissue research, but Gov. Tom Ridge says stem cell research is OK to do in the state if the cells are harvested in other states. The bill would clarify the issue.

A task force on election reform is expected to recommend few changes to current procedures and laws. Another tax force on property taxes and school funding reform is expected to formally determine there is a problem with the system.

But overshadowing all other things will be the politics of redrawing legislative districts, predicted G. Terry Madonna, head of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Millersville University.

"That's going to move center stage," he said. "That should be the main event."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
State House Near Accord on Redrawing Legislative Districts; 3 Democratic seats here delay approval
By John M.R. Bull
September 20, 2001

State House leaders are within a "gnat's eyelash" of finalizing the redrawing of legislative districts to reflect the census, but what to do about three Democratic-held seats in the Pittsburgh area held up approval by the state's reapportionment commission yesterday.

In the Senate, leaders are not close to reaching agreement, especially over a plan that would eliminate the seat held by state Sen. Leonard Bodack, D-Lawrenceville, and move it to the Poconos.

Regardless, the final boundaries for districts will be pretty much finalized by early next week, to last for the next decade.

"To my substantial surprise," agreements have been reached between Democratic and Republican leaders on how the new district lines should be drawn in 90 percent of the 203 House districts in the state, said House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg. "We were within a gnat's eyelash of a vote on a House plan" yesterday.

A scheduled vote yesterday on preliminary redistricting maps being prepared by the four caucuses in the state House and Senate was put on hold by the five-member reapportionment commission.

The commission, composed of the four caucus leaders and headed by retired state Supreme Court Judge Frank Montemuro, the likely swing vote, instead will vote on Tuesday.

"All of us have been working feverishly for the last weeks and months to produce maps that would be fair," he said.

While most of the maps of proposed changes of legislative boundaries have been all but finalized, none of the caucus leaders would reveal them yesterday. They did, however, speak in general about what has been agreed upon and what the sticking points now are.

On the House side, Montemuro decided that Democrats will have the final say -- provided it's reasonable -- in what to do about the seats in Western Pennsylvania, where three held by Democrats will be eliminated to reflect the loss of population in the area.

New seats will be established in other parts of the state where population has increased the last 10 years.

Montemuro, who will cast the swing vote if legislative leaders can't agree to a final plan, said he would let Republicans pretty much have the final word on how the lines should be drawn in the bedroom communities outside Philadelphia, which is a predominantly Republican area.

Montemuro's decision to divvy up each party' responsibilities prevents them from going to war over the few district lines left to draw, a battle which could jeopardize all the compromises made on district lines across the state. Those lines were mostly tinkered with by legislative leaders, to adjust for population shifts, but exactly how the lines will be changed has not been revealed. Each district is to comprise roughly 60,000 residents.

Three seats in the Pittsburgh area and two in the Philadelphia area must be eliminated. One of those will be the one held by Republican Chris Wogun, R-Philadelphia, who is leaving the Legislature to become a judge.

Republican leaders who control the House expect to finish their work by tomorrow. Left to do for them, sources say, is finding a way to undercut maverick Montgomery County Republican state Rep. John Lawless so he will lose a re-election bid to another Republican.

Democratic leaders in the House have been trying to do the same thing to Rep. David Mayernik, D-Ross, who has long been viewed in the caucus as a turncoat for voting often with Republicans.

Top Democrats are trying to justify cutting Mayernik's district into three pieces and spreading them to neighboring districts, which would leave Mayernik without a power base and ripe for a re-election loss next year.

"I continue to be the bad boy of the Democrats," Mayernik said yesterday. "Since I don't march lockstep ... with the left-wing, liberal Democratic leadership ... they intend to terminate me from my seat."

State Reps. Ralph Kaiser, D-Brentwood, and Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, have been claiming there is a map prepared by Democratic leaders that shows how they would be forced into the same district to run against each other, with one of their districts being eliminated. Neither are especially popular with their caucus leaders.

DeWeese yesterday denied their claims.

DeWeese said the Democrat's orginal plan was simple, logical and painless for Democrats, but Republicans objected to it so it was shelved.

DeWeese said he wanted to eliminate the seats now held by Rep. Tom Michlovic, D-Braddock, and Rep. Leo Trich, D-North Franklin, who both decided to retire. The third seat that would have been eliminated is held by freshman Mike Turzai, R-Bradford.

Woods, who won in a special election but has yet to cast a vote because the House hasn't been in session since he was sworn in.

That plan made perfect sense, DeWeese said, but the Republicans didn't want to lose Turzai. DeWeese said the Democrats gave in as a concession to the Republicans because of their cooperative stance on other parts of the plan.

On the Senate side, Republicans have pushed hard to eliminate Bodack's seat and establish a new, Republican-controlled seat representing the Poconos.

Republicans hold a firm 29-20 majority in the Senate, with one seat open.

Democrats stoutly oppose that plan, preferring some minor tinkering on Western Pennsylvania Senate district boundaries instead of wholesale changes.

If Montemuro won't side with the Republicans in that proposal, there is "plan B, plan C, plan D, plan E," and other contingencies that the Republican's will put forward next week for consideration, said the top Senate Republican, David "Chip" Brightbill.

One of those plans entails putting Democrats Jay Costa of Forest Hills and Sean Logan of Monroeville in the same district.

Whatever preliminary maps are approved next week likely will be the way they will remain unless overturned in court.

After Montemuro looks over all the preliminary plans next week, and casts his deciding votes, the public will have 30 days to make comments, and another month will be allowed for any revisions.

The commission likely will approve a final plan in November, and court challenges are expected.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Region to Lose as Legislative Map is Redrawn; Redistricting to Hit Pittsburgh, Allegheny County hardest
By James O'Toole
September 2, 2001

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are certain losers in the state House redistricting process now under way in Harrisburg.

After a decade of population losses, southwestern Pennsylvania is likely to forfeit as many as three House seats to other parts of the state in the redistricting designed to realign legislative districts in conformance with the Supreme Court's one-person, one-vote guidelines. Generally speaking, the 2000 census figures suggest that Western Pennsylvania now has too many state House seats while areas of recent growth in Eastern Pennsylvania are underrepresented in the Legislature.

"The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will feel the bulk of the loss," said one Republican close to the process.

The changes in the legislative map will have an immediate impact on the futures of some politicians. Beyond personal ambitions, the changes will have enduring implications for the balance of power in Harrisburg between city and suburbs, Republicans and Democrats and the eastern and western halves.

The political ascendance of the suburbs has been one of the decisive factors in Pennsylvania and national politics for the past two decades. The current redistricting process will produce further evidence of that trend at both the congressional and legislative level.

In the state House, the new political map also is expected to enhance the overall chances of Republicans to win seats in a chamber in which they now hold a 104-99 majority.

In contrast to congressional redistricting, where Democrats are at the mercy of a process totally controlled by the GOP majorities in Harrisburg, legislative redistricting is the responsibility of a bipartisan five-member commission. It includes the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and is chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro.

The commission's work involves continuing negotiations in which the Democrats and Republicans try to reach a consensus on the shape of the new districts.

Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, a key Democratic strategist in the process, said the panel was working its way around the state's districts, with rough agreement already in place on the shape of the legislative map in the northeast, central and northwest sections of the state.

But with a little less than a month to go until the new districts are to be unveiled, the panel still has to shape the political terrain of Philadelphia and the southwest parts of the state. Those areas, not coincidentally, are where some of the toughest decisions will have to be made.

Republicans cannot run roughshod over Democrats in the legislative remapping as they can in the congressional process, but they enjoy a crucial advantage in both forums. The 2000 census numbers favor the Republicans in that the state's population losses over the past decade occurred overwhelmingly in districts represented by Democrats.

"All we need is a fair reapportionment and we win," one House Republican official said. In Allegheny County, all of the districts with the greatest population losses are held by Democrats. Conversely, the few districts that saw population increases are held by Republicans.

While both parties agree that Allegheny County will lose seats, they disagree on how the pain should be apportioned.

he two state House seats with the greatest population declines since the last census both are in the city of Pittsburgh. They are the 19th District, represented by Rep. William Robinson, D-Hill District, and the 24th, represented by Rep. Joseph Preston, D-East Liberty.

According to census data compiled by Christopher Briem of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research, the 19th District's population falls 26.1 percent short of the target population of 60,000 for the new House seats.

The 24th District has a population deficiency of 23 percent.

Both of those districts are heavily African-American and are represented by African-American lawmakers.

Another thing that the two Harrisburg caucuses agree on is the need to preserve "majority-minority districts." That desire translates to increased pressure on other surrounding urban districts represented by white Democrats, at least some of which will be targets for elimination.

Republicans contend that the logic of the census trends suggests that all of the forfeited seats should be Democratic. Not surprisingly, Democrats disagree.

"It remains to be seen exactly how many seats will be lost in Western Pennsylvania," Veon said. "It will be no more than three and no less than two. In any case, we will be asking for one Republican seat to be eliminated."

Of the Republican contention that lost districts should parallel lost population, and thus be confined to current Democratic seats, Veon said, "The rebuttal is that there needs to be some political equity in this process.

"The four or five new seats we're going to be creating are going to be overwhelmingly Republican. So when you're creating seats and they're all going to be Republican, we feel it's fair the Republicans have a fair share of the burden on the other side." Neither Veon nor Republicans close to the process would speculate on which districts might end up in the commission's sights.

"At this stage, we've looked at literally dozens of options," Veon said. "The redistricting process is like a jigsaw puzzle. You make one change in one district, it can have a domino effect two and three districts away."

Among the factors that could ease the path toward consensus would be retirement decisions by sitting legislators.

There has been speculation in Harrisburg, for example, that Rep. Tom Michlovic, D-North Braddock, might not seek another term.

Michlovic would not comment on his plans, but if he were to retire, his 35th District seat, in the near Mon Valley, would be one obvious target for elimination.

The 35th has had the third greatest population decline among the county's House seats, and its residents could be appended to adjacent districts, each of which will need to find new residents in order to pass the population threshold for the legislative seats, all 203 of which will be contested in the 2002 primary election.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2nd GOP redistricting plan rankles Democrats
August 30, 2001
By John M.R. Bull

Democrats, unhappy with a redistricting plan that would eliminate the seat of state Sen. Leonard Bodack, are equally unhappy with an alternative plan hatched by Senate Republicans.

It would preserve Bodack's seat but leave two other Democratic incumbents, Jay Costa Jr. and Sean Logan, in the same district, forcing them to run against each other. The Senate Democratic leader, Robert Mellow, yesterday accused Republicans, who already hold a 30 to 20 advantage in the Senate, of being greedy. "I asked them, 'What do you want, all 50 seats?' " Mellow said.

Mellow said the redistricting -- required after every U.S. Census to equalize populations of legislative districts -- should not result in incumbents facing incumbents.

Republicans last week offered a plan that would dismantle Bodack's district and create a new one in the growing northeastern part of the state. Bodack, D-Lawrenceville, would be out of the seat he has held since 1979.

Yesterday, a top Senate Republican offered a second plan that would merge the districts of Costa, D-Forest Hills, and Logan, D-Monroeville.

The latest bit of political gamesmanship came as the five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission yesterday kicked off two days of hearings to allow the public to have input into redistricting.

It was a sparsely attended event yesterday, highlighted by pleas from the state's Latino community in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley to have House districts carved so that they can win some seats.

Currently, there is only one Latino in the Legislature, Angel Cruz of Philadelphia.

The last redistricting, in 1991, left the growing Latino population in the Lehigh Valley, north of Philadelphia, split into four voting districts, diluting its voting strength and resulting in the election of four Caucasians, testified Sis-Obed Torres Cordero, executive director of the Council of Spanish-Speaking Organizations of the Lehigh Valley.

"If the political deck is stacked, why bother?" he told the commission, made up of the leaders of the four legislative caucuses and chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro Jr. "This is the time for you to join us in helping fix this damage."

House leaders have already agreed on where lines will be drawn in roughly half of the 203 state House districts, with battles left to be fought mostly over districts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and their suburbs, said Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, the minority whip.

Preliminary maps from the four caucuses are to be submitted to the commission by Sept. 25. The public will have 30 days to make comments, most likely during another round of hearings, and another month will be allowed for revisions by the commission.

A final plan likely will not be approved until November, to be followed by court challenges. After each redistricting, 20 to 30 appeals typically are filed with the state Supreme Court, which will draw the lines itself if the five-member commission cannot reach agreement.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
GOP plan would eliminate Bodack's seat;
Democrats vow to fight redistricting proposal
By James O'Toole
August 21, 2001

Republicans and Democrats are poised for battle over a GOP redistricting proposal that would eliminate the state Senate seat held by Leonard Bodack, D-Lawrenceville, to create a new district in the eastern part of the state.

Under the plan, which has been submitted to the bipartisan commission that will determine the new districts, Bodack's 38th District would be dismembered, with the largest part merged into a new version of the neighboring 43rd District, represented by Sen. Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills.

Under the GOP plan, the new district would be designated the 43rd. The practical effect is that the seat would be retained by Costa, whose term runs through 2004.

Bodack's current term expires at the end of 2002, at which point he would find himself out of office.

"We vehemently oppose the removal of [Bodack's] seat," said Abe Amoros, press secretary to Senate Democratic leader Robert Mellow. "This is an individual who has served the Senate for a very long time."

Bodack has been in the Senate since 1979.

The preliminary Republican proposal was submitted to the bipartisan Legislative Reapportionment Commission this month. The Senate Democratic caucus also submitted a proposal for a new Senate map. Details of that plan were not available, but it reportedly does not eliminate any seats in the Pittsburgh region.

The commission includes members chosen by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate and is chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro Jr.

The panel has until fall to draft new maps for state House and Senate districts to conform with the 2000 census.

The commission will consider the proposals from the two caucuses but is not bound by them. Preliminary drafts of the commission's plan could be available late next month.

Elimination of the Pittsburgh-based district would allow creation of a new district in the state's northeastern corner including parts of Pike, Monroe and Wayne counties, an area with one of the largest rates of growth over the last decade.

The current 38th District has the smallest population of any Senate district in the state, while the 43rd has the second smallest.

The target population for Senate districts after the 2000 census is 245,621. The 38th has only 214,784, while the 43rd has 217,320, according to the census.

But there is more to the Republican plan than adjusting for demographics. In addition to eliminating Bodack's Democratic seat, the GOP plan would create a strong Republican opportunity in the new northeastern district.

The changes proposed by Republicans would also enhance their chances in southwestern Pennsylvania over the next decade.

Fox Chapel and O'Hara would be shifted from the old 38th District to the 40th District, solidifying the GOP's hold over that district, in Pittsburgh's northern suburbs. Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, won that seat easily in a special election this year, but it retains a significant Democratic registration edge in its current shape.

The proposed 43rd District would be dominated by communities currently represented by Bodack. It would include slightly more than 200,000 residents from the city along with the communities of Millvale, Reserve, Sharpsburg, Wilkinsburg and Forest Hills. It would have the heaviest concentration of minority voters of any district in the region.

Another large segment of the current 38th District would become part of the redrawn 42nd District, a seat held by Sen. Jack Wagner, D-Beechview.

Bodack had no immediate comment on redistricting prospects. Some other Democrats viewed the GOP proposal as a clear threat, while some saw it as the first offer in a complex process of negotiations.

"This is a negotiating tool, I believe," said Amoros, whose boss, Mellow, is the Democrats' point man on the new Senate map. "Last week was the first time both sides got a chance to sit down with Montemuro. [He] wants to see what we can work out in terms of common ground."

Costa, who would retain his seat but lose many of his constituents, denounced the plan.

"This is just the first salvo in the process, but it's bothersome to me," he said. "This is another attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise the citizens of Allegheny County. The population loss in no way, shape or form justifies moving a seat from Allegheny County."

Wagner was similarly critical.

"I would hope the Republicans would join with the Democrats to retain all of our districts," he said. "I can see some shifting of districts, the changing of some districts, but the drastic step of the elimination of a district is not warranted."

In the last Senate redistricting, 10 years ago, the Pittsburgh region also lost one district to the eastern part of the state.

The district represented by former Sen. Frank Pecora was moved across the Allegheny Mountains while Pecora was in the middle of his four-year term.

Pecora managed to hold on to the seat for two years. A state constitutional amendment adopted this year would bar a similar situation from occurring by requiring the occupant of any seat that is shifted geographically to run at the next legislative election.

Democrats are challenging the amendment in court. In any case, its provisions would not apply to the scenario suggested by the Senate GOP, because the district shift would coincide with the normal expiration of Bodack's term.

Bodack would be out of a job at least until 2004, when he could run for the 43rd District seat.

Morning Call
Once upon a time, redistricting turned Pennsylvania lawmaker into a couch potato

Matt Assad
August 19, 2001

Even the politicians involved admit redistricting is brutally cutthroat, grotesquely political and surprisingly complex.

But sometimes, it's just plain zany.

Consider the stories told by three lawmakers -- two who rode the redistricting wave into office, and one who reluctantly rode it out of politics.

Former state Sen. Frank Pecora remembers cruising his Buick Grand Marquis across the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1992, a map in his hand and a cigar between his teeth, in search of exit 23.

The seventh-term lawmaker was looking for his legislative district. He hadn't misplaced it; his Republican colleagues had punished him for his disloyal voting.

So when it came time to redraw Pennsylvania's legislative map, Pecora was sent on a two-year road trip. His Pittsburgh area seat was moved to Chester, Montgomery and southern Lehigh counties.

"I went to Harrisburg one day and found out my district was moved 250 miles across the state," Pecora, now 71 and retired, said recently. "When they have a grudge against you, look out. They act like children."

Refusing to resign the last two years of his term, Pecora changed his registration to Democrat, rented an apartment in Pottstown, and spent two years sleeping on a studio couch, representing people who had no idea who he was.

Then, in 1994, he reluctantly granted Republicans their wish, and retired. "Well," Pecora said, "I wasn't going to spend another four years on that couch."

While Pecora was begrudgingly racking up miles on the turnpike, U.S. Rep. Melvin L. Watt. D-N.C., was gladly traversing Interstate 85.

Watt remains caretaker of the nation's most famous gerrymandered district. When North Carolina Democrats set out to create a minority district in 1992, they gathered blacks from Charlotte to Durham. Known as the "I-85 district" Watt's territory snaked along the interstate, connecting Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Durham. The district was 160 miles long, but in places just a svelte four lanes wide.

Years of litigation brought a court-ordered trimming of the district, in 1997, to just less than 100 miles long.

The legal wrangling finally ended in April when the U.S. Supreme Court kept Watt's district intact.

Just in time for the 2001 redistricting to change it again.

"Now that it has the endorsement of the U.S. Supreme Court," Watt said, "I hope they leave well enough alone."

Speaking of interstates, U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., is in his fifth year of starring in a congressional version of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." Because congressional districts are drawn based on population, and not size, Gibbons' 2nd Nevada district covers 99 percent of the state.

Meanwhile, the district of his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Shelley Berkley, in Las Vegas, includes less than 1 percent of the state. So while Berkley can pretty much contact all of her constituents by yelling out the window of her Vegas office, Gibbons has spent five years in transit. 

Because his district is 520 miles long and 340 miles wide, he's divided the state into four sections. He spends one weekend a month in each quadrant, often jetting, driving or riding between Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Reno, Elko and Ely.

The former Delta Airline pilot said he's in transit roughly 30 hours per week. He sees his wife, Dawn, and three children, about two days a month, he said. 

But relief is on the way. Population gains over the past 10 years will give Nevada a third district next year, reducing the amount of state Gibbons has to cover. 

Sort of.

"Once they put the new district in I'll be down to 98 percent," Gibbons said sarcastically. "I'm not going to know what to do with all that extra free time."

Washington Post
In Pa., Bipartisan Gloves Come Off: GOP House Leader Is Gunning for Democrats Via Redistricting

By Thomas B. Edsall
August 12, 2001

On Election Day last year, an unknown Democrat came within 92 votes of defeating John Perzel, the powerful Republican majority leader in the state House. That near-upset effectively ended the bipartisan accommodation that had long marked politics in this city's Northeast section, with implications not only for local politics, but also for congressional redistricting and, potentially, control of Congress.

In the months since, Perzel has been on a partisan warpath. His prime targets include at least three Democratic members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation who are likely to be forced out by redistricting.

"If they thought I would be hiding under my bed, they were very mistaken," Perzel said, referring to Democrats hoping to end his political career in the next election. "I am out to win."

In a first step to rebuilding the city's moribund Republican organization, Perzel pushed through the Legislature a state takeover of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, effectively giving himself control over as many as 500 patronage jobs held primarily by Democratic loyalists.

In a second poke in the eye of John Street, Philadelphia's Democratic mayor, Perzel won approval of a measure ending city residency requirements for Philadelphia teachers.

Now, Perzel is the key player in state and federal legislative redistricting in Pennsylvania. At the state level, he is determined to use the process to extend his tenure as majority leader, which began in 1995.

In addition, Pennsylvania, which will lose two seats in 2002, is a crucial state in Republican plans to use redistricting to help retain GOP control of the U.S. House. Perzel is also exploring plans that could cost the seats of three, perhaps four, Democratic incumbents.

"Perzel and his henchmen have unsheathed the long knives and are ready to carve my congressional cohorts into oblivion," said H. William DeWeese, Democratic minority leader of the Pennsylvania House. "Perzel came within four score votes of sinking under the challenge of a young candidate in his home district, and his reaction has been to unleash all his fury against the Democratic establishment."

The GOP plan is to use Pennsylvania, along with Michigan (down two seats) and Ohio (down one), to cost the Democrats not only those seats, but also two or three others by redesigning other districts.

"Republicans' redistricting strategy comes straight from the 'swing for the fences' playbook," said Rep. Martin Frost (Tex.), the chief Democratic redistricting strategist. "They are attempting to hit a grand slam at every opportunity."

But the redistricting process in Pennsylvania is more than a story of strict partisan advantage and disadvantage. The lines defining congressional and state legislative districts will be drawn to take in a host of factors, including the substantial leverage of Rep. Robert A. Brady, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party and Democratic leader in the city's 34th Ward.

"I have a relationship with him," Brady said, using political shorthand to describe the rapport he and Perzel share.

Brady, like Perzel, is a power in his own right. In 2000, Brady engineered one of the most successful voter mobilization drives in Philadelphia history. The Democratic Party carried Philadelphia for Al Gore by an extraordinary margin of nearly 350,000 votes. It was the largest margin since the 1964 Democratic presidential landslide and larger than John F. Kennedy's margin in 1960, when there were half a million more people living in the city.

Brady's get-out-the-vote effort nearly swept Perzel out of office. Since then, however, Brady has done Perzel a significant favor, facilitating the Republican's plans to secure himself a safer district.

Brady agreed to give the Democratic endorsement for a seat on the Court of Common Pleas, a plum post, to Chris Wogan, a Republican state representative who, like Perzel, represents a Northeast Philadelphia district. That endorsement ensured a Wogan judicial victory, which in turn means his district will have no incumbent, opening up opportunities for Perzel to redraw his own constituency.

Brady and Perzel say their goal in congressional redistricting is to make sure there continue to be three Philadelphia-based districts. Although that appears likely to emerge, the political futures of five other Democratic House incumbents are in jeopardy.

Tim Holden and Paul E. Kanjorski in the Wilkes-Barre/Pottsville region are likely to be thrown into a single district. William J. Coyne and Michael F. Doyle also had been expected to be forced to battle for one district in the Pittsburgh area, until Coyne announced his retirement two weeks ago.

In addition, Joseph M. Hoeffel, whose Montgomery County district is already marginal, faces the prospect of seeing his base cut up into multiple districts, forcing him to choose between running against Philadelphia-based Democrat Robert A. Borski in a district favoring Borski, or in a new Montgomery County district with almost all Democratic areas eliminated.

Hoeffel does not plan to fade quietly. He is spending the summer trying to build public support in Montgomery County to keep a full district within the county's borders and, in the process, put pressure on the county's Republican state legislators to defy Perzel.

Borski, whose future is less in danger, has a more philosophical outlook. "Perzel is a tough, partisan guy," he said. "His job is to get" -- eliminate -- "as many Democratic seats as he can. He's playing by the rules of the jungle. I don't blame him; we would, too, if we were in control."

Washington Times
Inside Politics (excerpt)
By Greg Pierce
July 31, 2001

Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel, Pennsylvania Democrat, is trying to rally constituents in his well-to-do suburban Philadelphia district in a bid to keep the Republican-controlled state legislature from making him the odd man out in redistricting.     

The state will lose two of its 21 U.S. House seats as the result of population losses in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

"Hoeffel isn't about to go quietly. He's making it his summer project to, as he puts it, 'keep the issue front and center,'" Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Peter Nicholas writes. "Last weekend found him in tattersall shirt and khaki pants, trekking to coffee shops and diners from Jenkintown to Harleysville, meeting constituents and talking about redistricting.

"He is also approaching communities Lower Merion, Norristown, Upper Gwynedd, to name a few in hopes they will pass resolutions supporting a plan that would keep the 13th Congressional District largely intact.

"It is a tough sell."

The legislature, which will redraw the state's congressional map this fall, would ensure the political demise of at least one Democrat if it combined Mr. Hoeffel's district with the district now held by fellow Democratic Rep. Robert A. Borski.

Associated Press
Redistricting outcomes often unpredictable
Claude R. Marx
April 8, 2001

One of the cardinal rules of politics is: be careful what you wish for. That has frequently been true in Pennsylvania congressional redistricting, where the best-laid plans have sometimes been for naught. Republican strategists have outlined redistricting scenarios they think will increase the party's strength by forcing several pairs of Democrats to face each other in next year's primary. The GOP-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature has to redraw the map and shrink the House delegation from 21 to 19 as a result of the state's minimal population growth.

Before mapmakers become too excited about making life difficult for their political opponents though, they might want to look back at the unintended consequences of the last two redistrictings. In 1991, the Democrats, who then controlled the Legislature wanted nothing more than to end the career of a freshman Republican congressman from the Pittsburgh suburbs: Rick Santorum. The state legislators made his district more Democratic and almost half of it was new territory. In 1992, Santorum knocked on thousands of doors, raised more money than his opponent and won 61 percent to 38 percent. On the same day, Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton carried the district, 52 percent to 30 percent.

Santorum said the experience made him more sensitive to the needs of working-class voters and prepared him for his successful run for the Senate in 1994. "My friends could not have done more to help my career than my opponents did," Santorum recalled last week. Democrat Mike Doyle won Santorum's House seat in 1994 and has held it since. Republican strategists say they may target Doyle's seat for elimination next year. Doyle's old boss, former state Sen. Frank Pecora, is a former Republican who switched parties to challenge Santorum in 1992.

In 1981, Republicans in Harrisburg drew a map that combined the districts of two Democratic congressmen from western Pennsylvania: Don Bailey and John Murtha. The new district was drawn to give Bailey a slight advantage. Murtha, who had never had a serious challenge, came home more often and increased his visibility. He won the primary with 52 percent of the vote over Bailey and two other candidates. Murtha still holds that seat and has become so powerful that several Republican strategists, including Gov. Tom Ridge's spokesman Tim Reeves, have said they will try to give Murtha a safe seat. Pennsylvania is forced to give up two seats in the House of Representatives because its population has not grown as fast other state's or as fast as the national average.

In 1911, the size of the House of Representative was set in 1911 at 435 members. Previously, Congress had increased the size of the House every 10 years after the Census Bureau completed the national headcount. Pennsylvania gained House seats in 11 of the 13 reapportionments from 1790 to 1910. Since then, it has been another story. After the 1910 census, Pennsylvania had a 36-member House delegation. In each of the seven reapportionments since then - none occurred after the 1920 census because of political wrangling - the state has lost seats.

Currently, the 21-member delegation has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats. To create the 19-member congressional delegation required by the results of last year's census, Pennsylvania legislators may target certain incumbents for political oblivion. Voters, who do not always follow the wishes of political leaders, will have the final word.

Associated Press
Latino group formed to focus on election redistricting
April 7, 2001

A new statewide organization was formed Saturday to improve involvement among Pennsylvania hispanics in the upcoming congressional redistricting. The Pennsylvania Latino Voting Rights Committee will link with similar groups in seven other states in the region to increase education and involvement by hispanics in voting issues. "After the census, this is probably the most important process for the Latino community," said Ben Ramos, co-chairman of the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition. "This is the opportunity to redraw political lines. And with the obvious growth of the Latino population in this country we just want to make sure through this process that we're not disenfranchised."

Pennsylvania must redraw congressional district maps by spring 2002 because the state lost two of its 21 congressional seats due to stagnant population growth. "Because Latinos don't see how redistricting breaks up their community and dilutes their voting strength, they don't get involved," said Lucia Gomez of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. About 30 community leaders from around eastern Pennsylvania attended Saturday's conference at the Spanish Center in Reading, backed by written statements of support from dozens of groups in other parts of the state. The next meeting, at which executives will be elected to lead the new voting rights committee, is scheduled May 19 in Allentown.


 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Healthy pulse even for Pennsylvania, the Census news isn't all bad
January 4, 2001

Although every census has its winners and losers, Pennsylvania arguably being among the latter, Census 2000, the constitutionally mandated taking of the national pulse, revealed encouraging signs of vigor that all Americans can applaud. The United States is a more populous nation than anyone -- including the Census Bureau -- ever imagined. The resident population on April 1, 2000, was 281,421,906 -- a 13.2 percent increase from a decade earlier and 6 million more than was officially estimated just recently. But beyond the demographic trends revealed and embellished, the census response suggested a resurgence in civic responsibility -- and this despite ominous developments threatening to undermine the count.
 
Two years ago, the outlook was not encouraging. Even the way the census was to be conducted -- by an actual head count, or by employing scientific sampling -- was the subject of a dispute. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that an "actual enumeration" must be done for congressional apportionment purposes. The sampling controversy arose in the first place because the 1990 census was the first in history considered to be less accurate than the one before, with undercounting and double counting conspiring to make the tally about 4 million off. Census officials also had to contend with the fact that the response rate had fallen for three decades, and some talk radio know-nothings were busy banging their anti-government drum in casting the census as a sinister enterprise. But thanks to an immense effort of organization and public education, census officials were able to claim justifiably that Census 2000 was a success.
 
The decline in the response rate was finally turned around, reaching 67 percent compared with 65 percent in 1990. As it happens, this result will give comfort to Republicans who argued that a head count was the only constitutional and effective way to proceed. Actually, nobody quite knows how accurate these figures are, and that won't be known for a couple of months. All that can be said for the moment is that the Census Bureau appears to have made an excellent effort that paid off. And that doesn't mean that scientific sampling could not have done better. Still, the figures released last week both confirm common wisdom and provide some surprises.
 
There are about 33 million more Americans than a decade ago, and, as expected, the South and West account for most of the growth. Superficially, it is bad news that the nation's center of gravity continues to move away from the Northeast, meaning, in particular, that Pennsylvania will lose two congressional seats in 2003. To be sure, this loss is dismaying, and it is bound to be compounded by a partisan fight in the Legislature over reapportionment. But even from a parochial perspective, this census has a glass half-full, half-empty aspect. The fact is that Pennsylvania did not lose population (no state did) -- it merely grew at a lesser pace than most everywhere else: In 2000, there were 399,411 more Pennsylvanians than in 1990 -- a 3.4 percent increase.
 
The truth is that steady, slow growth -- as much as we would like to see it increased some more -- can be preferable to explosive growth of the sort that Nevada (66 percent) experienced. That sort of change brings with it a host of problems and is destructive to community continuity and identity. At the end of the day, Pennsylvania will still be a large state with a political delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives that ranks as the nation's fifth largest. Seniority also counts for a lot, and Pennsylvania won't be left without its fair share of influential voices on Capitol Hill. In short, Census 2000 is not a cause for despair.


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