To echo opposition to the redistricting plans in Lower Merion, 149th district State Rep. Tim Briggs (D) started an online petition for residents on April 26, along with fellow Democratic Reps. Pam DeLissio of the 149th district and Mike Gerber of the 148th district.
Briggs delivered the 515 signatures in total on Monday, May 14, the public comment period end date, to members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission opposing the commission's plans to split the township among four legislative districts.
The petition on the lawmakers' websites stressed the high level of difficulty the split would create for residents and representatives to focus on issues specific to Lower Merion.
In a news release, Briggs stated that aside from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which both have population sizes requiring several districts, Lower Merion is one of three municipalities in the Commonwealth to be split four ways. This is despite the fact that Lower Merion's population has remained relatively unchanged in the last two decades, with a current population of about 57,825.
"Lower Merion has 178 residents less than it had in 1990," Briggs said in the release. "that's not even enough people to cover one legislative, let alone four. I believe the Supreme Court had Lower Merion in mind when it rejected the previous map in January and I hope that the commission finally sees the wisdom in our opposition."
The commission's revised plans divides Lower Merion as follows:
- The 166th district, which includes the Montgomery County municipality's Wards 4, 8 and 10 and the Delaware County Townships of Haverford and Radnor
- The 148th district in Montgomery County, with Lower Merion's Wards 1, 2, 12 and 13 as well as wards of Plymouth, Whitemarsh, Whitpain and the Boroughs of Ambler, Conshohocken and Narberth
- The 149th district in Montgomery County consisting of the township's Wards 5, 6, 7 and 10, 11 and 14, as well as Upper Merion and Norriton Boroughs and West Conshohocken
- The 194th district of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, including wards 3, 9 and 13 along with the City of Philadelphia's Wards 21 and 38.
Lower Merion is currently split between the districts of Briggs, DeLissio and Gerber. Prior to 2001, the township had only two representatives.
In the release, Briggs said the Lower Merion four-way split is a result of the split in Haverford Township to benefit the Republican party, a similar accusation made by the neighboring township's Rep. Greg Vitali.
The 149th district state representative, who testifed on the matter at the May 2 public hearing, said the changes being made to his district present no benefit to the current district, nor do they solve problems for Lower Merion Township.
"If you follow this map to its rightful conclusion, the four-way split in Lower Merion is nothing more than the result of the political influence in order to gain stronger, safer Repbulican seats in neighboring Delaware County," Briggs said in the release, adding that redistricting has become "a completely political process."
"It should be taken out of the hands of those who are direclty affected by the outcome and placed in the hands of independent commissions, which would be tasked with drawing maps that make sense and ensure proper representation for all Pennsylvania residents,' he added.
Briggs vowed to continue fighting to maintain "as limited a change as possible" for Lower Merion.
The legislative reapportionment committee has until mid-June to vote on the final map.