HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The state Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved newly redrawn maps for Senate and House districts on Monday, more than two weeks early and with only one dissenting vote.
The special panel voted 4-1 to approve a Republican-crafted map for the 50 Senate districts and a map of 203 House districts that carried bipartisan support.
“Certainly this is not a perfect plan” and criticism from citizens and legislators is likely, said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny. “However, that is the nature of compromise.”
Under the state constitution, no further action is required for the changes to take effect for the 2012 elections, although appeals to the state Supreme Court can be filed within 30 days.
Both maps move districts from west to east and make less radical adjustments to other districts — reflecting population changes evident in the 2010 Census — as a part of the redistricting that the constitution requires every 10 years. In the Senate, one district is moved from Allegheny and Westmoreland to northeast Pennsylvania, primarily in fast-growing Monroe County in the Pocono Mountains.
The latest revisions to the House map approved Monday will move the Lackawanna County district represented by Democrat Edward G. Staback into Monroe County, bringing the number of relocated House districts to five.
The preliminary plan the commission approved in October eliminated two existing districts in Allegheny County and one each in Erie and Philadelphia counties while creating districts in Berks, Lehigh, Chester and York counties.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said the five relocated districts are not expected to affect the partisan balance.
“Those that are Democrats are moving to Democratic-voting areas,” he said. “Those who are Republicans are moving to Republic-voting areas.”
Changes in the House plan also expected to increase the number of districts with Hispanic majorities from one to four, including an additional one in Philadelphia and one each in Allentown and Reading.
The commission had until the end of the month to approve a redistricting plan but sought to speed up its deliberations to give legislators and legislative candidates more time to plan campaigns or decide whether to run. They have three weeks to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, starting Jan. 24.
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