As the chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and state representative for the 195th District in Philadelphia, I strongly endorse the Preliminary Plan for House Districts passed by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission on Dec. 16.
I have watched the reapportionment process closely and am truly impressed by the commitment to fairness and transparency that Chairman Mark Nordenberg has demonstrated throughout. The unprecedented level of public engagement has resulted in a strong preliminary plan that is fair, representative, and constitutionally sound.
Notably, this preliminary plan is responsive to the growth of communities of color across the commonwealth. As many have stated, statewide the number of Pennsylvanians who identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian or multi-racial increased by more than 800,000 since the last census, while the White population decreased by more than 540,000.
In the last decade, the City of Philadelphia, after many census reports showing population losses, increased its population by more than 80,000 residents requiring a House district be moved within the city boundaries. This growth is recognized in the preliminary plan by adding House District 9 to Philadelphia. The newly drawn House District 9 is a majority Black district which, through the unpacking of neighboring House districts including my own, furthers the goals of the Voting Rights Act.
The population growth in Philadelphia is part of a trend across the southeast of the commonwealth. In addition to the placement of House District 9, the preliminary plan reflects this trend by placing new legislative districts in Montgomery and Lancaster counties which provide increased opportunities for the growing minority populations in those areas to secure equal representation.
In addition to preserving and expanding districts in which a racial minority group makes up the majority of the population, the preliminary plan takes the important step of including coalition districts. These districts, in which diverse communities of color make up a majority or plurality of the population, recognize the commonalities of Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous Pennsylvanians and will allow these communities to fully realize their political power.
The newly drawn House District 54 in Norristown, Montgomery County, is a great example of a coalition district that will undo previous efforts to dilute the political power of Black and Latino Pennsylvanians. Over the years, maps have been drawn in a way that diluted the voice of the people of Norristown by combining them in a legislative district with very different suburban and rural communities in the western part of the county. This map, instead, puts Norristown in a district with communities with more commonalities in Conshohocken and Plymouth Township—and will have a racial minority population of nearly 45%.
Similar efforts have been made in Lancaster County, where all population growth in the last decade came from communities of color. Pennsylvanians of color will make up nearly 50% of the population of the newly drawn House District 50 in and around Lancaster City. This district, like House District 54, is a great opportunity for Black and Latino Pennsylvanians.
I want to thank Chairman Nordenberg for his tireless efforts in this redistricting cycle and for recognizing that the diversity of this commonwealth is a strength. His leadership has led to a plan that will uplift—rather than dilute—our voices.
Donna Bullock represents House District 195 in the City of Philadelphia and serves as the Chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. The PLBC is a bicameral institution established in 1973 to serve as an information and advocacy vehicle to advance the interests of African American, Latino, and other people of color of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
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