New State Congressional Map Would Split Luzerne County
The new congressional map introduced Monday by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court puts most Luzerne County residents in the 8th Congressional District with other Northeast Pennsylvania counties — Lackawanna, Wayne, Pike and most of Monroe.
Some municipalities in western Luzerne County are in the 9th Congressional District with Columbia, Montour, Carbon, Schuylkill, Berks and Lebanon counties and part of Northumberland County.
Luzerne County municipalities with larger populations — including the cities of Pittson, Wilkes-Barre, Nanticoke and Hazleton —are in the 8th district. Hazle Twp. is split with sections in the both the 8th and 9th districts.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-17, Plymouth Twp, said some things in the new map “don’t make sense,” noting the greater Nanticoke region is split up with Nanticoke and Plymouth Twp. in the 8th and Newport Twp. in the 9th.
But Yudichak said the new map is an improvement. He said and he supports the state Supreme Court decision to overturn the congressional map approved by the Legislature after the 2010 U.S. Census.
“The 2010 map split communities in a way that disadvantaged voters,” Yudichak said.
It also helped give Republicans 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to five seats in the state for Democrats.
“This whole process illustrates how partisan we have become,” Yudichak said.
The state senator supports legislation that would give an independent commission the power to devise legislative boundaries after the next census in 2020. The state Supreme Court wants the new congressional map in place for this year’s elections.
Most of Luzerne County is currently in the 11th district, which cuts through parts of Carbon, Dauphin, Perry and Cumberland counties. The 17th district currently includes the Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and Wyoming Area communities in Luzerne County and stretches into Schuylkill County and areas in Carbon and Northampton counties.
The 11th district was historically based in the Luzerne County and known as “the Coal Cracker district,” Wilkes University political science professor Thomas Baldino said. The new map moves the 11th district south to include Lancaster and York counties.
“This creates far more competitive districts,” Baldino said. “In terms of having a community of interest with a Northeast Pennsylvania district, this comes pretty close. It makes more sense geographically.”
Luzerne County funds and oversees the office that runs election operations, and County Manager David Pedri said he’s concerned that a court challenge to the new map could result in a later primary election just for the congressional contests.
Pennsylvania’s primary election is scheduled for May 15. A separate primary election could cost the county $200,000, Pedri said.
Regardless of whether there’s a court challenge, the election office is “going to move forward” with plans for a primary election on May 15 that includes the new map, Pedri said.
“We are in the business of running the election in a fair and clear way,” Pedri said. “I am hoping the timeline doesn’t change.”
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, Wilkes-Barre, said he supports the state Supreme Court’s decision to impose the new congressional map because Republicans in charge of the state Legislature failed to create districts based on geographic and common interests.
“I think this is a perfect example of check and balances,” Pashinski said.
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