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With Redistricting Process Behind Schedule, Pennsylvania Primary Election Could Be Delayed

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa, the Democratic Senate Leader from Forest Hills, is warning that Pennsyvlania's May primary could be delayed until June.

It all comes down to redistricting.

Every 10 years, the state counts the people in a Census. Then, states are required to redraw their legislative and congressional districts to reflect population changes and make them equal: One person, one vote.

Nine weeks before candidates can file to run for these offices, Pennsylvania still has no districts.

Pennsylvania is supposed to have its 17 congressional districts, 50 Senate districts and 203 House districts in place and approved by the courts by Feb. 15. That's when candidates can first file their nominating petitions, 13 weeks before the May 17 primary.

Costa said that process is a month behind.

"One of two things has to happen," Costa told KDKA-TV "Either we move the election to maybe mid-June or the second thing we could do is reduce that 13-week period."

Costa is one of five legislative leaders on the Legislative Redistricting Commission with Sen. Kim Ward, a Hempfield Republican and the Republican Senate Leader; two state House leaders; and court-appointed chair Mark Nordenberg.

While the legislature and governor draw up the congressional districts, this Commission is charged with drawing the 253 legislative districts.

"We're behind the eight ball because of the late Census numbers," Ward said.

WATCH: KDKA's Jon Delano reports

Because of COVID, final Census figures were months late. While a preliminary redistricting plan may be approved next week, that triggers a 30-day, public-comment period.

"After the public-comment period, you have to vote on a final plan," Costa said. "Ten years ago, it took us 12 days to come up with a final plan."

That takes you into February, when another 30-day period kicks in for citizens to appeal the plan to the courts, meaning no final court-approved districts until mid-March, past the filing deadline.

Moving the primary to June is one option no one likes.

"We could move the timeline when petitions are filed and when they're started," Ward said.
"I think the very last resort would be to move the (primary) election."

Ward said she does not want a longer primary campaign season, and voters don't either.

But it may not be up to lawmakers. The state Supreme Court might move the primary to June because lawmakers did not act quickly enough on redistricting.

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