Some Indiana County residents will be seeing unfamiliar names on election campaign material mailed to them this spring and on their ballots at the May 20 primary election.
Part of the reason is that new candidates have tossed their hats into the ring. And some of the reason is that several parts of Indiana County have been shifted into different legislative districts represented by other legislators.
Under the state legislative redistricting plan approved in 2012 and effective this year, nine Indiana County townships and four of the county’s boroughs were reassigned to different districts and legislators. Those changes will get a shakedown for the first time in this spring’s election.
The state constitution dictates that legislative districts be made up of “compact and contiguous territory,” and be as close to equal in population as is practical. It also states that no municipality should be divided to form a district unless absolutely necessary.
The redistricting had the following changes on Indiana County:
• The 60th District, represented by Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City, lost Armstrong, Brush Valley, Green, Rayne and Washington townships and part of Cherryhill Township, and Creekside, Ernest and Shelocta boroughs.
Added to the 60th District were Blacklick, Conemaugh and Young townships.
• The 62nd District, represented by Dave Reed, R-Indiana, lost Blacklick, Conemaugh and Young townships and Saltsburg Borough.
Added to the 62nd District were Armstrong, Brush Valley and Washington townships and half of Cherryhill Township, and Shelocta and Creekside boroughs.
• The 66th District, now represented by Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, formerly included eight northern Indiana County townships. The 66th now reaches deeper into Indiana County with the addition of Rayne and Green townships and Ernest Borough.
• Cherryhill Township, which previously was divided between the 60th and 62nd districts, is now entirely within the 62nd District.
• Saltsburg Borough, formerly part of the 62nd District, has been shifted to the 55th District, now represented by Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Washington Township, Westmoreland County.
Under the redistricting, Pyle’s 60th District generally has shifted south and west. Previously it was just in Armstrong and Indiana counties. Now a part of the 60th District is also in Butler County.
Pyle said the change for him represents no particular advantage or disadvantage.
“Everybody’s got problems, just in different places,” he said.
Pyle has started meeting township supervisors and residents in the new areas he’ll represent, and is learning about issues and projects he’ll inherit in his new territories.
Reed’s 62nd District generally has shifted north but remains entirely within Indiana County and is not much changed in size.
Reed said it makes sense for his district to gain Brush Valley and Armstrong townships because he’ll now represent all of the United and Indiana Area school districts.
Reed, too, has started going to some municipal meetings in his new territory and knocking on doors of some of his new constituents.
The change in boundaries should have little impact on the legislator in the 66th District because that seat will be changing hands in December. Incumbent Sam Smith is not seeking re-election.
James Golden, chairman of the Cherryhill Township supervisors, said he anticipates no significant changes now that his township is no longer divided between districts and is entirely within the 62nd District.
Also under the redistricting, all of Indiana County will remain in the 41st Senatorial District, represented by Don White, R-Indiana. The 41st now stretches across four counties instead of five.
The 41st now includes all of Armstrong and Indiana counties and parts of Butler and Westmoreland counties, but it was moved out of Clearfield County.
“Change is always difficult,” White said this morning, adding he knows he will now be representing some constituents who did not elect him. “We’ve always reached out,” he said, to township and borough officials to let them know he and his staff are available to help.