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What new census data means for Pa. redistricting

Plus, Pennsylvanians look to aid desperate Afghans.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 18, 2021
Political shifts, Afghan allies, energy market, reform plan, PSU's pinch, popular votes, and Pa. lawmakers on TikTok. It's Wednesday, thanks for checking in.
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New census data confirm Pennsylvania is less white and more concentrated in and near cities than it was a decade ago, and that will have major implications for state lawmakers as they prepare to draw new political maps.

Updated district boundaries for the state House and state Senate are needed to better reflect and balance the shifts in population and electoral power. 

But mapmakers will also have to meet standards set out in the state constitution and principles touted by anti-gerrymandering advocates interested in keeping the maps fair. 

Spotlight PA explains how it all works, who might be due for a new district, and what the process might actually look like this time around.

THE CONTEXT: Advocates for fair maps say crafters should explain what criteria they plan to use to make the boundaries, how it prioritizes necessary standards, and how feedback from members of the public will be used during the process.

All of that is still TBD with the new census data delivered last week after a lengthy pandemic delay, but the clock is ticking. 

"If you are serious about transparency and accountability, you have to get people's reactions to a map," said David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the good-government group Committee of Seventy and managing director of Draw the Lines.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission in charge of redrawing the state maps will hold a public meeting on Aug. 24 to go over census data and next steps
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"I think people are disenchanted with the process in America, and specifically in Pennsylvania, people don't think that their vote matters."  

—Ethan Demme, who left the GOP over the U.S. Capitol attack, on bringing a new political party called the Serve America Movement to Pennsylvania
COVID-19 UPDATE: U.S. health officials are expected to soon recommend booster shots for all Americans eight months after they get their second COVID-19 vaccine shot, the Associated Press reports. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CLIMBING COVID: Join us Wednesday, Aug. 25 at noon via Zoom for a free Q&A on what we know about rising COVID-19 cases and the state's vaccine distribution efforts. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A furry friend (who I have nicknamed Cinna-bunn) photographed in Derry Township. Thanks for another one, Robert N.! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
RESCUE REACH: Pennsylvania Quakers are lobbying federal lawmakers to help save a U.S. military interpreter who's in hiding in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, per The Inquirer. Across the state, TribLIVE reports a University of Pittsburgh helpline has been "inundated" with calls from Afghans desperate to escape Taliban rule.

FAULT LINES: The Democratic Party's energy debate is alive and well in the race for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat. Many voters are clear on where they stand, leaving candidates "splitting the difference between supporting union energy jobs and getting rid of fossil fuels" as they seek the party's nomination in 2022, WHYY reports. 

REFORM LOOK: Bipartisan election reform legislation coming out of the state Senate will avoid the kind of heightened voter ID rule that sank a GOP-led proposal in June. Instead, the forthcoming proposal will focus on pre-canvassing of mail ballots, dropboxes, and relevant application deadlines, per the Capital-Star.

SHOT BLOCK: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) confirms Penn State could face funding cuts if it requires vaccines for returning students. The school has signaled it won't for this very reason, prompting a backlash and faculty to declare "no confidence" in the university's COVID-19 mitigation plan, per WPSU.

REFERENDA RULES: Less than a quarter of Pennsylvania voters decided crucial ballot questions in May that limited the governor's emergency power in the midst of a pandemic. Now, state Rep. Benjamin Sanchez (D., Montgomery) wants to restrict future ballot questions to general elections with federal races to ensure higher turnout.
RAISING RELIEF: Philadelphians are gathering aid for Haiti after Saturday's devastating earthquake with hard-earned lessons in mind. Specifically, they're favoring smaller organizations this time after the American Red Cross squandered half a billion in earthquake aid raised in 2010, per WHYY.

BRINE DINING: The mayor of Picklesburgh, a Pittsburgh festival honoring the namesake snack, is vowing to defend his pickle juice-drinking title from the hospital where he's being cared for after he was hit by a car. "As long as I'm in the contest nobody is going to beat me," Joseph George told WTAE.

POST UP: Capital-Star reporter Stephen Caruso has now confirmed three state legislative TikTokers and counting. There's state Rep. Gary Day (R., Berks), state Rep. Jordan Harris (D., Philadelphia), and state Sen. John Kane (D., Chester). Apropos of very little, here's state Rep. Russ Diamond (R., Lebanon) singing the national anthem at a demolition derby.

BUSINESS MOVES: Chef Kevin Sousa built a brand on opening high-end restaurants in Pittsburgh-area neighborhoods and towns, like Braddock, long devoid of such investment. But Pittsburgh Magazine reports Sousa's ambition often leaves a "turbulence of debt ... and disappointment" in its wake.

THE WHO: The sign appeared below the real "Welcome to Erie" sign on Monday and simply read: "Welcome to Erie, the birthplace of Donna Tucker — the Most Beautiful Woman in the World!" No one seems to know who put it there or who Donna Tucker is, Erie News Now reports.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Ingenious

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan D., Michael S., Neal W., Doris T., Susan N., Don H., Becky C., Bruce T., Joyce O., Jessica K., Susan F., Adrien M., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Mary Kay M., Diane P., Karen W., Dennis M., Lex M., Barbara O., Carol D., Suzanne S., John P., Barbara A., Judith D., Clayton L., Irene R., Tish M., Joel S., Craig E., Beth T., James B., Kevin H., Mike B., David W., Kim C., and Doris B.
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