Jan 26, 2022 - Politics

Philadelphia City Council's proposed redistricting map draws scrutiny

Illustration of the city of Philadelphia with moving districts inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia legislators are weighing a proposed political map that a good government group says could face legal challenges.

What's happening: The city's Committee of the Whole, which is made up of all city councilmembers, will take up Council President Darrell Clarke's redistricting proposal at a virtual hearing Wednesday, starting at 10am.

Why it matters: The map will determine the city's 10 legislative political boundaries for the next decade.

  • City councilmembers are tasked with approving a map by Feb. 12 — or they'll face having their paychecks withheld.

What they're saying: Joe Grace, the council president's spokesperson, said Clarke had consulted with legislators and their staff to develop the proposal addressing population changes across the city.

  • "It's always possible there will be some changes in the plan, based on feedback obtained at the hearing, which we look forward to hearing," Grace said.

The other side: Pat Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy, expressed concern about the plans for Northwest Philadelphia's 4th District.

  • He said the proposed boundaries raise red flags due to the lower population compared to other districts.

Between the lines: Each district should have between 168,400 and 152,400 residents, a range that ensures political power is spread evenly and maintains the "one-person, one-vote" principle of election law, Christmas said.

  • Yet the proposed 4th District includes only 150,217 people — a population drop of more than 10,000 people compared to the current map, according to the committee.

Zoom out: Christmas warned that legislators should plan for slow population growth in both the 4th and 8th Districts and increases elsewhere in the coming years so as to avoid a "population bomb in the next redistricting cycle."

  • "It's a real challenge to try to figure out where to pull people, from one district or another, without necessarily causing a ripple effect throughout the city," he said.

Of note: Christmas is expected to testify at Wednesday's hearing.

What to watch: Councilmembers will likely tweak the proposal during the hearing and pass it out of committee, setting up a potential final vote as early as Feb. 3.


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