Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

Pennsylvania

State Summary

Pennsylvania’s congressional lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

Pennsylvania’s state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member politician commission, in place since 1968. Each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) may choose one commissioner, and those four commissioners choose a fifth to serve as chair.

In the 2010 cycle, Pennsylvania’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 1249) on Dec. 20, 2011, which was signed on Dec. 22, 2011.  On Feb. 7, 2018, the state Supreme Court found that the plan constituted an impermissible partisan gerrymander; when the legislature did not pass a new plan, the court on Feb. 19, 2018, drew congressional maps itself.   With respect to state legislative lines, the politican commission voted 4-1 on Dec. 12, 2011, to approve a state legislative plan. On Jan. 25, 2012, the state Supreme Court rejected the plan, and held that the 2001 plan should govern 2012 elections.  On June 8, 2012, the politician commission issued final plans for new state legislative districts, effective in 2014.

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Seats:

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

Key Info for 2000 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Pa. Const. art. II, §§ 1617

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Pa. Const. art. II, §§ 1617

Key Info for 2020 Cycle

Primary governing law

Pa. Const. art. II, §§ 1617

Data

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Institution

Pennsylvania’s congressional lines are drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto. The members of the state House committee responsible for redistricting are listed here; the members of the state Senate committee are listed here.

Pennsylvania’s state legislative lines are drawn by a five-member politician commission, in place since 1968. Each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) may choose one commissioner, and those four commissioners choose a fifth to serve as chair, who may not hold paid public office.  If the first four commissioners cannot agree on a chair within 45 days, the state Supreme Court will appoint a fifth commissioner to serve as chair.  [Pa. Const. art. II, § 17(b)]

The Pennsylvania constitution vests original jurisdiction in the state Supreme Court for review of state legislative lines in state court. There is no similar provision for congressional lines. [Pa. Const. art. II, § 17(d), (g)]

Timing

Pennsylvania state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional lines, though candidates must file for congressional primary elections by Mar. 8, 2022. [25 Pa. Stat. §§ 2753, 2873(d)]  The legislative session began on Jan. 5, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on Dec. 15, 2021.

Pennsylvania state law requires that its commission draw initial proposals for state legislative lines within 90 days of the commissioners’ appointment or the approval of Census data, whichever is later.  In the thirty days after draft maps are produced, any person can file objections to the plan, and the commission has 30 days from the date of the last objection to approve a final plan. [Pa. Const. art. II, § 17(c)]  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Mar. 8, 2022. [25 Pa. Stat. §§ 2753, 2873(d)]

Pennsylvania prohibits redrawing state legislative district lines mid-decade, before the next Census; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [Pa. Const. art. II, § 17(e)]

Public input

The legislature has not announced any specific plans for public input this cycle just yet.

Criteria

Like all states, Pennsylvania must comply with constitutional equal population requirements; for its state legislative lines, Pennsylvania further asks that districts be drawn that are as “nearly equal in population as practicable.” [Pa. Const. art. II, § 16]

Pennsylvania must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

For its state legislative lines, the Pennsylvania constitution further requires that districts be contiguous and compact, and that they respect county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, and ward boundaries “unless absolutely necessary.”  The courts have enforced the latter commands by evaluating the plan as a whole, and without requiring a particular measure of compactness.  [Pa. Const. art. II, § 16; Holt v. 2011 Legis. Reapportionment Comm’n, 67 A.3d 1211 (Pa. 2013); Holt v. 2011 Legis. Reapportionment Comm’n, 38 A.3d 711 (Pa. 2012)]

For both congressional and state legislative lines, the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits diluting the ability to elect representatives of choice on the basis of partisanship.  The state Supreme Court has said that it will determine whether congressional plans violate this standard by examining the extent to which districts that are contiguous, compact, and respect political subdivisions have been subordinated to unfair partisan advantage.  [League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 178 A.3d 737, 816-17 (Pa. 2018)]

2010 cycle

Pennsylvania’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 1249) on Dec. 20, 2011, which was signed on Dec. 22, 2011.  Challenges to the congressional plan were rejected in federal court, but on Feb. 7, 2018, a state court found that the plan constituted an impermissible partisan gerrymander.  [Corman v. Sec’y, 751 Fed. Appx. 157 (3d Cir. 2018); League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 178 A.3d 737 (Pa. 2018); Agre v. Wolf, 284 F. Supp. 3d 591 (E.D. Pa. 2018)]

When the legislature did not pass a new plan, the court on Feb. 19, 2018, drew congressional maps itself.  [League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 181 A.3d 1083 (Pa. 2018)]

For state legislative lines, the politican commission voted 4-1 on Dec. 12, 2011, to approve a state legislative plan. On Jan. 25, 2012, the state Supreme Court rejected the plan. The state Supreme Court held that the 2001 plan should govern 2012 elections, and challenges to that holding in federal court were rejected.  [Garcia v. 2011 Legis. Reapportionment Comm’n, 559 Fed. Appx. 128 (3d Cir. 2014); Pileggi v. Aichele, 843 F. Supp. 2d 584 (E.D. Pa. 2012); Holt v. 2011 Legis. Reapportionment Comm’n, 38 A.3d 711 (Pa. 2012)]

On June 8, 2012, the politician commission issued final plans for new state legislative districts, effective in 2014. Those districts were challenged in state court, and upheld.  [Holt v. 2011 Legis. Reapportionment Comm’n, 67 A.3d 1211 (Pa. 2013)]

Maps and data are available here.

2000 cycle

Pennsylvania’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 1200), which was signed on Jan. 7, 2002. The plan, with a deviation of 19 persons from largest to smallest district, was challenged in state and federal court; it was upheld in state court (on partisan gerrymandering grounds), but struck down in federal court on Apr. 8, 2002, on equal population grounds. [Erfer v. Pennsylvania, 794 A.2d 325 (Pa. 2002); Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 195 F. Supp. 2d 672 (M.D. Pa. 2002)]

The legislature then passed a new congressional plan (HB 2545), which was signed on Apr. 18, 2002. That plan was challenged in federal court, and upheld. [Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 241 F. Supp. 2d 478 (M.D. Pa. 2003), aff’d sub nom. Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004)]

For state legislative districts, the state’s commission passed a state legislative plan on November 19, 2001, which became final on Dec. 28, 2001 after a few technical adjustments. The state legislative plan was challenged in state court, and upheld. [Albert v. 2001 Legis. Reapportionment Comm’n, 790 A.2d 989 (Pa. 2002)]

Maps and data are available here.

Redistricting Cases in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania | State Trial | State Upper | State Lower
Holbrook v. Pennsylvania
PENDING - State court challenge to prison gerrymandering
Last Updated Nov 9, 2020
Case Number

No. 184-MD-2020 (Pa. Commonw. Ct.)

Cycle 2020