FILE - Pennsylvania State Capitol

The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

(The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania House approved a new resident-created congressional district map Wednesday over objections from Democrats.

Lawmakers approved House Bill 2146 with a vote of 110-91 to establish new congressional districts for the next decade, sending a map initially created by Lehigh County resident Amanda Holt to the Senate for consideration.

The new map was selected from 19 submitted by the public to the House State Government Committee, where it was modified by lawmakers before heading to the House floor. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, explained the “minor changes” on the House floor before Wednesday’s vote, while Democrats complained they were shut out of that process.

Grove cited the map’s alignment with criteria set by the state Supreme Court for creating congressional districts in defending HB 2146, and he touted feedback from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and Dave’s Redistricting – an app that gauges fairness – as evidence the proposal is nonpartisan.

“This is an eight-eight-one,” Grove said. “Eight Democratic districts, eight Republican districts and one toss-up.”

“I think this is a map citizens can be proud of,” he said.

Democrats did not cite specific issues with the map Wednesday but rather complained about the process the State Government Committee used to select it. Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, minority chair of the House State Government Committee, alleged some of the maps submitted through PAredistricting.com were not accepted, and once the map from Holt was selected, Democrats were not consulted on changes before it was voted out of committee.

“How the maps were picked, I don’t know. They just decided this is the map we like,” Conklin said. “Even the other members (of the committee) didn’t know how the map was picked.”

Rep. Brett Miller, R-East Hempfield Township, countered that Democrats could offer amendments to potentially modify the map, but none bothered.

“This bill, HB 2146, like any bill, could be amended. He or any member here could offer amendments,” Miller said. “This bill presents a citizens map that was vetted throughout the commonwealth with input from many people.”

Democrats argued more than a dozen meetings on congressional redistricting held throughout the state ahead of the map selection were held at inconvenient times and in places that were difficult to access for those without transportation.

The vote to approve HB 2146 comes about two weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf issued a letter to House leadership laying out his grievances with the bill, which included issues with population equality, the map selection process and an alleged “structural advantage to Republican candidates that far exceeds the party’s voter support.”

Wolf also expressed concerns the General Assembly was leaving little time to adopt the map before a Jan. 24 deadline set by his administration. If approved by the General Assembly, HB 2146 would need Wolf’s approval.

A group of Pennsylvania registered voters sued state officials last month in an attempt to force the Commonwealth Court to draw a new congressional district map “now that it is clear that the General Assembly and governor will not timely act to do so.”

That case is still pending.

States redraw state and federal legislative maps every decade using updated census data to ensure fair representation, though the process is contentious and often rife with gerrymandering aimed at giving an advantage to one political party or the other.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected in 2018 a map approved in 2011 by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and executive branch for leaning in favor of Republicans. Lawmakers vowed a more transparent process this time around.

Census data shows Pennsylvania’s population of 13 million grew slower than other states at about 2.4% over the past decade, resulting in a reduction of congressional delegates from 18 to 17. The current delegation is split 9-9 between Democrats and Republicans.