By Greta Fenzl, Contributing Writer
The panel in Harrisburg has up to ninety days to draw preliminary maps for both the Senate and the State, then sixty more days to present their plans to the public and hear opinions.
This means that the process could take up until mid-January if all the days that the state constitution allows are utilized.
The state districts can’t exactly be thought of as puzzle pieces; not only can lines change, but districts can be redrawn and moved to the opposite end of the state.
Throughout the state, the population has gradually shifted from west to east, and its speculated that the new districts might reflect that. A district from Western Pennsylvania could potentially be moved to the east, if the census results show that great of a population difference.
While this could be a potential issue, Erik Arneson, spokesman for Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, explained, “I think voters are much more concerned about making sure that districts are roughly equal size, so that everybody’s vote counts the same.”
But along with all these potential district changes, voters will have greater access to the redistricting.
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission last week launched a website allowing users to compare the current districts for the House and Senate with the districts that were previously established by the 1990 census, and eventually, with the new districts based on the 2010 census.
Community hearings will also be starting soon, with some already scheduled for mid-September. And according to redistricting whiz Barry Kauffman of Common Cause PA, citizens should utilize these hearings as much as possible.
“This is a great opportunity for citizens to protect their communities in this process, so citizens who care about whether their communities are well represented and served well,” he said. “They should take a look at this and prepare to be at the hearings.”