Congressional maps are enacted by the State General Assembly. The Governor can veto the plans.
The General Assembly can override a veto with a two-thirds vote. No party currently has a veto-proof majority in either chamber.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission draws the state legislative districts. It is a five-member commission. Legislative majority and minority leaders either serve on the Commission or appoint a member in their place. The four original members name a fifth, who will be the chair. If the fifth member is not appointed within 45 days, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court selects the fifth member by a majority vote. The chairman of the Commission must be a citizen of the state, but cannot be a local, state, or federal official who gets paid for their services.
Before 90 days pass since either all the Commissioners are appointed or the census data becomes available, whichever is later, the Commission submits an initial district map to an elections officer. A 30-day public commentary period follows, during which the Commission can edit the map. If there are edits, the Commission has 30 days after the filing of exceptions to submit a new plan to the elections officer. Should no exceptions be made in this period, or in the case that they have been made and have been acted upon, the newest plan becomes law. Any citizen may appeal to the State Supreme Court within 30 days after the maps are sent to the elections officer to argue the new plan is illegal. If the new map is determined to be illegal, the Supreme Court instructs the Commission to redraw the maps. The redistricting plan becomes law once the Court decides an appeal or when 30 days end without an appeal being filed. The Commission may pass maps with a majority vote.
Challenges to the maps are litigated in the State Supreme Court.
Source: Pa. Const. art. II, § 17.
Previous Redistricting Cycles
- Original Plan – SB 1249
- Passed = December 20, 2011 (R-controlled)
- Signed = December 22, 2011
- Litigation History
- Agre v. Wolf, 284 F.Supp.3d 591 (E.D. Pa. 2018): Plaintiffs challenged the General Assembly’s enacted congressional plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause. On January 10, 2018, the federal district court upheld the plan, finding that the plaintiffs’ Elections Clause-based partisan gerrymandering claim was a non-justiciable political question.
- League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Commonwealth, 178 A.3d 787 (Pa. 2018): Plaintiffs challenged the General Assembly’s enacted congressional plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause. On January 22, 2018 the state Supreme Court ruled that the congressional plan violated the state constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause and on February 7, 2018, issued an opinion outlining its rationale and ordering the General Assembly to enact a remedial plan by February 15, 2018.
- League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Commonwealth, 181 A.3d 1083 (Pa. 2018): After the Republican-controlled General Assembly failed to pass a remedial congressional plan, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the adoption of its own congressional plan on February 19, 2018, for use in the 2018 and future elections.
- Commission’s Plan
- Adopted = December 12, 2011
- Struck Down = January 25, 2012 (by Pennsylvania Supreme Court)
- Litigation History
- Holt v. 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Comm’n, 38 A.3d 711 (Pa. 2012): Several different groups of plaintiffs filed challenges to the constitutionality of the Legislative Apportionment Commission’s 2011 legislative plans on various grounds, including excessive splitting of municipal subdivisions and vote dilution in violation of the Voting Rights Act. On January 25, 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled that the 2011 legislative plan violated the state constitution and remanded the plan back to the commission to be redrawn, but allowed the 2012 elections to proceed using the prior decade’s districts.
- Pileggi v. Aichele, 843 F.Supp.2d 584 (E.D. Pa. 2012): After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the 2011 legislative plan and ordered the 2001 plan be used for the 2012 elections, plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit seeking to enjoin the use of the 2001 plan on the grounds that population shifts had caused the 2001 districts to be malapportioned in violation of the one person, one vote constitutional principle. On February 8, 2012, the district court ruled in favor of the defendants, finding that the special circumstances of the case required the 2012 elections to proceed under the only valid plan then in existence.
- Holt v. 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Comm’n, 67 A.3d 1211 (Pa. 2013): After the Legislative Reapportionment Commission adopted its remedial legislative plans on June 8, 2012, plaintiffs again challenged it as violating the state constitution on the grounds it unnecessarily divided political subdivisions, was not sufficiently compact, was drawn to secure partisan advantage, and violated minority voting rights protected by the Voting Rights Act and Due Process Clause. On May 8, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendants on all claims and upheld the plans as valid.
- Original Plan – SB 1200
- Passed = January 3, 2002 (R-controlled)
- Signed = January 7, 2002
- Litigation History
- Erfer v. Commonwealth, 794 A.2d 325 (Pa. 2002): Plaintiffs challenged the General Assembly’s enacted congressional plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of the state constitution’s Equal Protection guarantee and Free and Equal Elections Clause. On March 15, 2002, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the plan, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that it was a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
- Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 195 F.Supp.2d 672 (M.D. Pa. 2002): Plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit challenging the General Assembly’s enacted congressional plan as violating the constitutional one person, one vote principle. On April 8, 2002, the district court struck down the plan as malapportioned in violation of the one person, one vote constitutional requirement and ordered the General Assembly to enact a new, properly apportioned plan.
- Remedial Plan – HB 2454
- Passed = April 17, 2002 (R-controlled)
- Signed = April 18, 2002
- Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 241 F.Supp.2d 478 (M.D. Pa. 2003): After the General Assembly enacted its remedial congressional plan, plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit challenging the remedial plan as unconstitutional based on alleged violations of the one person, one vote constitutional requirement and of partisan gerrymandering. On January 24, 2003, the district court ruled in favor of the defendants and upheld the remedial plans as constitutional.
- Commission’s Plan
- Passed = November 19, 2001
- Finalized = December 28, 2001 (minor adjustments)
- Litigation History
- Albert v. 2001 Legislative Reapportionment Comm’n, 790 A.2d 989 (Pa. 2002): Plaintiffs challenged the Legislative Apportionment Commission’s enacted legislative plans as violating the state constitution on the grounds it excessively divided political subdivisions when not necessary and failed to comply with the one person, one vote constitutional principle. On February 15, 2002, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved the commission’s final plan as constitutional.
Ballot Measure Process
Kinds of Ballot Measures
Only the Pennsylvania General Assembly may refer amendments to the ballot. There is no initiative or referendum process.
Source: Pa. Const. art. XI.
In The News
- Pennsylvania Republicans Promise Transparency During Redistricting. Why that won’t Help a Bit, The Morning Call (7/15/21)
- Panel Agrees to Put Guardrails on how Pa. Lawmakers Draw Congressional Maps, but not their Own, Spotlight PA (6/22/21)
- Census Data Reveals Shift in Population from Small Communities to Suburbs and Cities, The Daily Item (6/4/21)
- Pa. Supreme Court Picks Former Pitt Chancellor to Chair Powerful Redistricting Commission, Spotlight PA (5/3/21)
- PA Supreme Court to Decide Redistricting Commission Chair, Local 21 News (5/1/21)
- Pennsylvania Population Lag Costs State a US House Seat, AP (4/26/21)
- Pennsylvania Expected to Lose Congressional District, WGAL (4/15/21)
- Lawmakers Look to Limit Redistricting Chair’s Political Ties, AP (3/23/21)
- Pennsylvania's 2022 Primary Election could be Postponed due to Census Delay, The Daily Pennsylvanian (3/4/21)
- Constitutional Amendment on Districts for PA. Court Elections Shelved... for now, The Times (2/17/21)
- Redistricting Rulings were Pivotal to Democrats' Control of Congress, The Supreme Courts (1/11/21)
- Pennsylvania's Population Stagnates as Reapportionment Nears, The Center Square (12/23/20)
- Pennsylvania Republicans Held on to the State Legislature. But Democrats Still Feel Good about Redistricting. Here's Why, The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/23/20)
- Redistricting Reform Bill Moved to Senate Floor, My Ches Co (9/25/20)
- Lawmakers' Power to Redraw PA.'s Political Maps Could be more Limited, The Philadelphia Inquirer (9/22/20)
- Fewer Pennsylvanians are Participating in the Census than a Decade Ago, WSKG (9/3/20)
- Census Countdown is on, But a Lot of Pennsylvanians Haven't Been Counted, Penn Live (8/1/20)
- Senate Approves Measure for Constitutional Amendment to Create Judicial Districts, Lancaster Online (7/16/20)
- Lawmakers Will Rule Again Over Redrawing of PA. Political Boundaries, but Critics Aren't Giving Up, Spotlight PA (7/8/20)
- Harrisburg Lawmakers to Blame for Failure to End Gerrymandering of State Legislative Maps, Group Leader Says, The Morning Call (6/26/20)
- Pa. approaching a legislative crossroad, Penn Live/The Patriot-News (5/23/20)
- Lawmakers try to alter voter-approved redistricting reforms, AP (3/5/20)
- More states to use redistricting reforms after 2020 census, AP (3/5/20)
- Americans continue to vote with their feet towards low-tax states, The Hill (3/3/20)
- State sued over counting inmates in legislative districts, AP (2/27/20)
- Pennsylvania state senators lead bipartisan effort to reform state's redistricting, The Center Square (2/24/20)
- ‘It’s not red. It’s not blue. It’s just fair.’ Redistricting reform back in spotlight in Pa., Centre Daily (1/30/20)