The Lead

Now Hiring: Redistricting commission seeks applicants for chair to oversee 2021 mapmaking

By: - March 29, 2021 11:38 am

2011 House redistricting plan via Pa. Legislative Redistricting Commission.

Do you like maps and democracy? The state’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission wants to hear from you. 

The four-member commission, which redraws the boundaries for Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate districts once every 10 years, announced Monday that it’s accepting applications for a fifth member who will serve as its chair.  

The chair will lead the commission through the redistricting cycle that could last until next spring. The appointed head of the panel can also expect to break ties among its partisan members, as they produce maps that will influence the balance of political power in Harrisburg for the next decade.

Redistricting, explained: What it is, how it works, and how Pa. politicians get to draw their own maps

The months-long redistricting process is expected to face delays this year because federal census officials have been late providing states with decennial census data, which they use to reapportion and shape districts based on population shifts. 

Any Pennsylvania resident who does not hold paid office at the local, state or federal level is eligible under the state constitution to chair the panel. 

The position is not technically full-time, but “does require a significant investment of time” until the redistricting process is finished, the commission said in a press release Monday. 

The chair typically commands a small staff until the redistricting is complete. They can also expect to collect a salary: the most recent chair, who oversaw redistricting in 2011, was paid $9,450 a month, according to the Pocono Record

Interested candidates have until Friday, April 9 to send a CV and statement of interest to [email protected].

Pennsylvania’s redistricting commission typically accepts public applications for the chairship when it convenes for its once-in-a-decade redistricting task. Its members plan to interview applicants publicly, and they also will consider candidates who don’t submit formal applications. 

History suggests, however, that the commissioners won’t agree on who to appoint. 

The final decision typically falls to the state Supreme Court, which must approve a chair when the four members of the commission – the two Democrats and two Republicans who serve as floor leaders for legislative caucuses in the House and Senate – can’t agree on who to pick. 

In the last 40 years, chairs have included retired judges or law professors. 

It’s possible that this year’s chair will face different eligibility requirements from his or her predecessors. 

A state Senate committee gave bipartisan support this month to a bill that aims to limit the political connections of the commission chair. 

The proposal by state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, disqualifies anyone who has registered as a lobbyist, been nominated by a political party as a candidate for elected office, or worked for a political entity or public official in the last five years from serving as chair. Those prohibitions also apply to the chair’s spouse. 

Argall’s bill also requires the chair to have voted in at least two of the last three General Elections. The legislation must be approved by the full Senate and then the House before going to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk. 

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.