Redistricting shifts may surprise some primary voters in Westmoreland County
About 25 percent of Westmoreland County voters are expected to cast ballots in new districts during Tuesday's primary.
Statewide legislative redistricting, which goes into effect for this year's election, has drastically altered some boundaries.
The cities of Jeannette and New Kensington, two Democratic strongholds, have moved into different districts.
“There are some major changes,” said Jim Montini, director of the county elections bureau.
More than 58,000 voters in the county will cast ballots in new districts. Westmoreland County has nearly 240,000 registered voters.
G. Terry Madonna, a professor of public affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, said the redistricting was an effort to strengthen Republican areas by shifting large concentrations of Democrats to districts that are considered Democratic strongholds.
“This goes on all the time when you have shifts. It's artful, but legal, gerrymandering,” Madonna said.
Officials said some voters might not be aware of the changes.
“I think people will be surprised, because sometimes they don't pay attention. People won't know until they vote,” said Monica Bolcato, a judge of elections in New Kensington.
Jeannette, which was part of the 56th District represented by state Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, has been moved to the 58th District, where state Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, is seeking re-election.
In the Democratic primary race on Tuesday, Harhai is being challenged by John Scott Nestor, a Monessen city councilman. Republican Tom Logan of Hempfield is unopposed.
Kathie Tanyer, a former Jeannette council member, said there are only a few campaign signs throughout the city to give voters a hint that a change has occurred.
Harhai appeared in the city's Christmas parade last year.
“I don't believe most people knew what he was doing there,” Tanyer said. “I don't think people are truly educated who is running. It's apathy, basically.”
Voters in New Kensington and Arnold were moved from the 54th District, now represented by state Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Murrysville, and into the Allegheny County-based 33rd District, now held by state Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Penn Hills. Evankovich and Dermody are unopposed.
Pittsburgh political consultant Bill Green said the redistricting was scheduled to be implemented two years ago.
“The number stays the same, 203 (members) in the House and 50 in the Senate. It doesn't really matter where they are,” he said.
Westmoreland County voting officials said workers will be on duty during the primary to answer voters' questions about the changes.
“I'm sure we'll get calls, but I don't expect it to be a problem, Montini said.
Jill Cooper, chairwoman of the county Republican Committee, said GOP volunteers will man the polls to instruct voters about the changes.
“I didn't realize it was 25 percent of the voters,” Cooper said. “We sent out mass emails with new maps, and we are trying to work with the legislators who are in new districts. I don't expect issues in the primary since we have no contested races.”
County Democratic Committee Chairman Dante Bertani said local committee members are responsible for getting the word out to voters in the new districts.
“We're having some difficulties ourselves to find out all the changes,” Bertani said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.