HARRISBURG - The clock is winding down on the politically charged process of redrawing Pennsylvania's state House and Senate districts.
Officials and members of the public have their final say Wednesday on the newly shaped political maps, ahead of the closing of the public comment period next Wednesday.
The Republican-crafted map, which was given preliminary approval last month, is poised for a final sign-off by the end of December by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
After the plan is adopted, anyone with objections has 30 days to file a challenge, which would go directly to the state Supreme Court.
Among those scheduled to speak Wednesday are 14 people - including mayors, state lawmakers, and citizens - from Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties, all of which will see some district changes under the proposed map.
The once-a-decade redistricting reshapes the state's political landscape by setting boundaries for the 253 districts based on the latest census figures.
Changes in the state's demographics are forcing the shift of several seats from the southwest to the rapidly growing areas of the northeast and south-central parts of the state.
Also benefiting is southern Chester County, where the Downingtown area will get a new seat, while Philadelphia loses a seat to York County.
This time around, the majority Republicans have control of the cartographer's pen; they drafted the initial plan announced last month, which was approved Oct. 31 by the redistricting commission in a 3-2 vote.
The commission is made up of the two Democratic and two Republican leaders in the House and Senate. Commission Chairman Stephen J. McEwan Jr., president judge emeritus of Superior Court and a former GOP district attorney of Delaware County, cast the deciding vote.
When it was rolled out Oct. 31, Democrats objected to what they called a last-minute redrawing by the GOP.
Democrats said the maps were whipped up a bit hastily, pointing to the fact that the homes of three lawmakers, all of them Democrats, were inexplicably drawn out of their districts.
Republicans blamed the moves on technical problems, and they were quickly fixed. Some Democrats charged it was dirty politics.
One of the "victims" said he saw nothing nefarious.
The district of Rep. Mike McGeehan (D., Phila.) was reconfigured as a result of the elimination of Republican Rep. Dennis O'Brien's neighboring seat in Northeast Philadelphia. (O'Brien was elected to City Council earlier this month.)
McGeehan said that, a few years ago, he moved eight blocks away in his Northeast district, and he attributed the mistake to old ward maps.
"I don't blame the Republicans," McGeehan said. "I don't think it was intentional."
But it is likely the maps will end up in the hands of the state Supreme Court by the end of the year.
Given the track record in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, a court challenge is all but certain.
"The chances are very good, and not because of any plans we have," said Bill Patton, spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny). "It's more common in this state and others to have a court challenge on these maps."