Redistricting Impasse Could Delay Delegate Ballots
HARRISBURG (AP) _ An impasse in the Legislature over congressional redistricting is snarling the selection of delegates to next summer’s presidential conventions.
Lawmakers failed to pass a plan to redraw the state’s congressional districts before they went on vacation in mid-December, so would-be delegates don’t know in which districts they should register.
The Legislature convened briefly Tuesday, and action on pending legislation was postponed until lawmakers return to the Capitol on Jan. 21.
But residents wishing to run for a delegate spot have to file statements of candidacy with their parties on Jan. 17. On the Democratic side, the state chairman is required to forward the petitions to presidential candidates on Jan. 22.
Prospective delegates also need 250 signatures from residents registered in their parties. The period for circulating petitions runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 18.
The reapportionment delay is complicating matters because the parties are required to have a certain number of delegates from each district. William Myrtetus, the state Democratic Party deputy chairman, said he is telling candidates to file in their present districts and just wait for the Legislature to put the new map together.
″We can’t allocate until we know what the districts are,″ he said. ″We’re tap-dancing now. We don’t know what we are finally going to end up with.″
William Boehm, state Election Bureau chairman, said he expects the Legislature to give candidates a breather by extending the filing deadlines when members pass a final map. Lawmakers did the same in 1982 when they were late with a reapportionment plan.
But with the deadline changes, Boehm said counties will have less time to prepare between the filings and the April 28 primary.
Because of population losses, Pennsylvania will lose two of its 23 congressional seats. In mid-December, rank-and-file House members rejected a reapportionment proposal supported by the state’s congressional delegation and House Democratic leadership.
Amendments by Democratic Reps. Peter Daley of Washington County and Robert Freeman of Lehigh County upset the plan. A final vote was delayed, and leaders were expected to renew pressure on lawmakers to accept the original bill.
Daley said the leadership’s plan could needlessly defeat Democratic incumbents Austin Murphy of Washington County and Joseph Kolter of Beaver County because of shifts in their districts.
Freeman said the plan slices both the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County into two districts when each deserves to be in its own district, as they are now.
Both lawmakers said they still back their plans and expect the changes to be passed by their colleagues eventually.
A separate proposal has been approved by the Senate Local Government Committee, but the chamber hasn’t dealt with it yet. Steve MacNett, counsel to Senate Republicans, said House and Senate leaders were meeting to work out differences.
″I don’t expect to see any substantive developments before the 21st (of January),″ he said.