Photo: Michelle Myers/AL DÍA News
How Philadelphia's Latino population is redistricted could go a long way in determining its political power. Photo: Michelle Myers/AL DÍA News

How the 2021 Pennsylvania redistricting process affects the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities in Philadelphia, and how to get involved

The redistricting process affects the representation of communities based on population.


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The 2021 redistricting process is currently underway in Pennsylvania. 

Redistricting — a process conducted periodically to redraw boundaries of elected districts and mark representation based on population — is a process growing ever more relevant to Pennsylvania’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

For the purpose of apportioning districts for the United States House of Representatives, Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution lays out requirements for a Census to be taken every 10 years. 

The data is used to determine the number of congressional seats to be apportioned to each state in addition to Congressional and Legislative redistricting.

Pennsylvania’s redistricting process takes place once every ten-year period, after Census data has been taken, as is the process in other states.

Recognizing communities of interest

Redistricting is intended to be a process based on changing population data. Some objectives of redistricting are to avoid gerrymandering, and to ensure communities of interest are not wrongfully divided.

Communities of interest are groups of residents with common political, social, or economic concerns often determined by legislators. 

When these communities are divided, their representatives of choice have lower chances of being elected, putting the communities at a disadvantage during elections. 

Gerrymandering is often the outcome when the redistricting process is abused. Twenty-four states currently consider communities of interest when redistricting to avoid gerrymandering and other disadvantages. 

Philadelphia’s Hispanic and Latino communities are particularly significant in this period’s redistricting process due to the 27% increase in the city’s Hispanic population that took place between 2010 and 2020, as shown in recent 2020 Census data. 

Philadelphia’s general population grew by 5% between 2010 and 2020, or 77,791 people.

Outside Philadelphia, Latino communities in Pennsylvania have also seen growth in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Reading. 

Philadelphia’s Latino and Hispanic residents are a community of interest whose population has flourished greatly over the last 10-year period. Now, the community risks division if not recognized.

As noted by a recent opinion piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer, if Philadelphia’s Latino and Hispanic community were to remain within one U.S. House district, a State Senate district, and a City Council district, the community will be best ensured to continue its growth and impact.

The discussion and resident input

Redistricting is not a decision entirely exclusive to mapmakers and legislators. Residents have the chance to let their voices be heard, and advocate for communities of interest. 

The Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus are accepting input in the form of a mapping tool, which allows residents to highlight communities of interest.

In Harrisburg, ongoing public hearings are also taking place, and are currently welcoming resident testimonies.

At these public hearings, discussions regarding Pennsylvania’s redistricting process are taking place, led by the 2021 Legislative Reappointment Commission. The 2021 Legislative Reapportionment Commission is composed of four caucus floor leaders and a chairman.

On Tuesday, Aug. 24, during the most recent public hearing, it was discussed whether incarcerated persons in Pennsylvania are to be considered residents of the districts they are housed within, or residents of the districts where they previously lived. 

Mapmakers and lawmakers are taking into account how this specific representation affects districts with little to no correctional facilities, and how this representation can potentially create the illusion that these districts are more racially diverse than they really are.

Similar discussions are revolving around college students, who are likely to relocate once their studies are complete: a period not expected to outlive the 10-year period between censuses.

Pennsylvania residents are able to view the public hearings live, or once recorded and uploaded.

Residents may attend hearings in-person — in Harrisburg — to provide testimonies. Residents may also be eligible to offer a virtual testimony.

The 2021 Legislative Reapportionment Commission is hoping to take into account the interests and concerns of all Pennsylvanians throughout the redistricting process. 

To ensure the prosperity of Philadelphia’s Latino and Hispanic communities, Pennsylvania’s redistricting process must be conducted with care.


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