Los distritos actuales de la Casa del Estado de PA.

In general, there is a wide gap when it comes to who understands the term “redistricting.”  In political circles, the term has great significance.  Once every ten years, changes in the population prompt the redrawing of political district boundaries. These changes can shift political power, depending on how they concentrate or divide voters.  Elected officials and their staff spend countless hours considering the best possible district boundaries that will allow them to retain or increase the power of their voter base, by grouping as many of their supporters into one district as possible.  Negotiations between politicians become intense in the days leading up to final votes on new maps.

The average community member has never even heard the term “redistricting.”  More often than not, average voters are completely in the dark about what this process is and why it matters.  If a community member does know the term, he or she will have no idea how to engage the process and give input to the conversation.  Engagement with the political process is left to nonprofit organizations who do their best to represent communities.  Too often, the voters most affected by the decisions are not equipped to advocate for themselves, and their voices are silent.  This reality needs to change, through transparent communication with and education of voters. 

Los distritos actuales de la Casa del Estado de PA.

The green, yellow, and red map – Figure 1 on the cover: Hispanic Movement in Philadelphia, 2012-2017 – shows where the concentrations of Latino communities have shifted since the 2010 Census (map credit: Interface Studios). Red areas show the neighborhoods where Hispanics have moved out; yellow areas show where Hispanics have stayed; and green areas show where Hispanics have moved in.  Essentially, this map shows that Hispanics in Philadelphia have been pushed north and east in the past ten years, out of neighborhoods like Fishtown and Kensington as development creates gentrification and displacement.  This trend has continued since 2017, with Hispanics in Philadelphia moving from their historical neighborhoods, shifting up Roosevelt Blvd and the train line into the northeast.

The maps of legislative districts shown here were extracted from DRA2020. They have been cropped to show Hispanic North Philadelphia.  Philadelphia currently only has two Latino State Representatives – Rep. Danilo Burgos in the 197th District, and Rep. Angel Cruz in the 180th District.  Any new maps produced in this redistricting process should reflect the movements of the Hispanic population and should keep Latino voters grouped together rather than drawing new district lines that will divide the neighborhoods. 

Distritos actuales del Senado estatal de Pensilvania.

Currently, the State House districts in the northeast are heavily gerrymandered, and fracture Latino voters into many small groups.  Figure 2: Current PA State House Districts shows the extremely irregular shapes of some districts, such as Districts 177, 179, and 201. District 172 is one of the worst, combining a large area of the northeastern suburbs with small areas in Philadelphia’s northeast.  State Senate districts in Philadelphia are a little bit less convoluted, but still have some irregularities, as shown by Figure 3: Current PA State Senate Districts – district 3, for example, stretches to combine disparate and dissimilar geographies and populations.  These irregularities reflect an attempt to keep certain voters together. These districts are also ten years old, meaning they do not show where different groups currently reside.  Much has changed in the last ten years, making these districts outdated.  The most recent Census shows that Latino population growth has driven the growth of the city in recent years, with Latino growth outpacing all other groups in Philadelphia except Asians.  Latinos now represent nearly 15% of the city’s residents, or nearly 250,000 people.

As the state legislature prepares for a possible vote before the Christmas holiday, now is the time for community residents to raise their voices on behalf of their own interests.  The City of Philadelphia councilmanic map will likely not be finalized until January, but the state may reach a decision more quickly.  Philadelphians should be aware, and not miss the opportunity to speak out in favor of maps that give each community the power its voters deserve.


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