State Representative Doyle Heffley has written a "letter to the editor" regarding the realignment of legistlative district.
The matter has become controversial in that the only town affected will be Summit Hill. Under the plan, Summit Hill will be switched from the 122nd Legislative District (Heffley's District) to the 124th Legislative District, which is served by Jerry Knowles of Tamaqua and covers much of Schuylkill County and a section of Berks County.
The Summit Hill Borough Council has gone on record as opposing the plan. Also opposed are Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek and former State Representative Keith McCall. O'Gurek and McCall reside in Summit Hill.
Petitions are being circulated at several businesses in Summit Hill and Summit Hill Borough Hall opposing the realignment.
Heffley writes in his letter:
"I am writing in response to recent articles about the redistricting plan that moves Summit Hill from the 124th Legislative District, which I represent, into the 124th Legislative District, served by Rep. Jerry Knowles.
"The Pennsylvania Constitution mandates that setting boundaries for legislative districts is solely the authority of the five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
"The commission includes the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Pennsylvania Senate. The four members appoint a fifth member by a majority vote. If there isn't agreement in the appointment of the fifth member, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints that individual.
"Redistricting is the adjustment of boundaries of election districts within a jurisdiction that may be necessary every 10 years because of population changes based on the U.S. Census. The primary purpose of redistricting is to insure that districts have equal population sizes (mandated by the Pennsylvania Constitution) and that the districts meet all other state and federal legal requirements.
"There are two very important federal requirements for redistricting: the "one person, one vote" requirement; and the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act.
"The one person, one vote requirement states that election districts should be nearly equal in their total populations. The definition of "nearly equal" is based on the state population and the mandate that there are to be 203 state representatives and 50 state senators.
"Each Pennsylvania House member will represent approximately 62,000 residents. The population of an area is defined by the latest U.S. Census count. The fact is the U.S. Census for 2010 shows that Carbon County's population increased to 65,249 – more population that could constitutionally be contained in any one legislative district by about 3,000+/- county residents. Summit Hill has a population of 3,034 residents.
"I would have preferred to continue to represent all of Carbon County; however, that does not appear to be possible.
"It is my understanding that this was agreed to by both Republican and Democratic members serving on the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
"I hope this correspondence sheds some light on the redistricting. It can be a time of upheaval for both legislators and their constituents – members giving up population to meet legal requirements and constituents finding themselves placed in new legislative districts. I believe that we are all best served when we work together to avoid Partisan bickering and recognize that, sometimes, such change is unavoidable.
122nd Legislative District"