New legislative district proposed for Conshohocken, Plymouth, and Norristown resulted from effort to give Black and Latino communities more political power

Last week, State Representative Donna Bullock, chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, sent the media a column on “legislative redistricting and the impact of the proposed map for communities of color.” Bulock represents the 195th District in Philadelphia and endorses the Preliminary Plan for House Districts passed by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission on December 16th.

Note that the map discussed only addresses Pennsylvania’s State House of Representatives. It does not involve the State Senate or Congress.

From Bullock’s column:

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.

As reported on December 17th, the proposed map would create a new legislative district compromised of the Borough of Conshohocken, Plymouth Township, and Norristown. This new district would be House District 54. Whitemarsh Township would continue to fall within the old, but altered, 148th which would continue to be connected to the Main Line. The Borough of West Conshohocken would continue to be part of a district that includes a portion of Lower Merion, all of Upper Merion, and Bridgeport.

Further from Bullock:

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%.

As you see, Bullock believes that Norristown has more commonalities with Conshohocken and Plymouth Township vs. the current communities it shares a house district with which are East Norriton Township, Worcester Township, and a portion of Plymouth Township.

If you look at school districts, currently Norristown is in a district with a portion of the Norristown Area School District, a portion of the Colonial School District, and a portion of Methacton School District. The new house district would include a reduced portion of the Norristown Area School District (East and West Norriton townships would be in another district) and approximately two-thirds of the Colonial School District.

Let us know if you think Bullock is right or if Conshohocken and most of Plymouth have more commonalities with the communities it currently shares a house district with (Ambler, Lower Merion, Narberth, Whitemarsh, and Whitpain) and the school districts of Lower Merion and Wissahickon.