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Redistricting efforts stymied in Pennsylvania

February 29, 2012

ST. MARYS – In a campaign stop in St. Marys this past Friday, Congressman Glenn Thompson, who is seeking re-election as representative for Pa.'s 5th District, spoke to supporters gathered at Gunner's Restaurant and asked for their vote.
Thompson also discussed at Friday's event the expansion of his voter base as the result of recent redistricting, or reapportionment, of the Congressional 5th district by the state's legislative leaders in the Pa. House and Senate. Redistricting takes place every 10 years following the outcome of the Census.
"I want to thank Representative Gabler...he and Senator Scarnati have been kind enough in the redistricting effort, they've downsized me. I've gone from 17 counties to 16 and we are no longer 22 percent of the land mass of the state, we're now 23 percent of the land mass of Pennsylvania," Thompson said.
"I think we also found you [Thompson] an additional, what, 45,000 constituents," Gabler said.
Thompson added that the reapportioned district consists of 705,000 constituents as opposed to the previous 660,000.
The Congressional reapportionment process differs from that of the state House and Senate, as Thompson explained, with a congressional reapportionment plan presented as legislation to be voted on by the state legislature. The recent congressional redistricting of the 5th District that Thompson discussed passed the Senate and was subsequently approved by the House on Dec. 20, 2011.
While successful in the congressional redistricting effort like that of the congressional 5th District, as Thompson conveyed, state Republican leadership has been on the losing end of a reapportionment initiative to redraw Senate and state house District lines. Redrawn maps of House and Senate district lines, while initially approved by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission on Dec. 12, 2011, were met with numerous appeals, challenges, civil complaints, and subsequently declared invalid on Jan. 23 by a 4-3 margin in Pennsylvania's Supreme Court.
"The state House and the state Senate seats, that is done by a five-person commission - two Republicans and two Democrats appointed by the leadership in Harrisburg, and one third party," Thompson said in describing the redistricting process for the Senate and state House.
As he explained at Friday's event, regarding the stalled House and Senate redistricting effort, it was determined by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court that the "Democratic-led challenge had merit."
"And now there's some discussion as opposed to using the new lines that are drawn. I think it is going to be the old lines we've had for the past 10 years," Thompson said, referring to the 2001 state legislative map which Senior U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick said in a Feb. 8 ruling must be used in Pennsylvania's 2012 elections. The decision was coupled with Surrick's upholding of the State Supreme Court's initial ruling on the matter, citing the potential for confusion with redistricting as the election season is already under way.

Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.

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