FILE- In this file photo from Nov. 19, 2019, a man is silhouetted in the shade as he walks by the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) State Capitol
FILE- In this file photo from Nov. 19, 2019, a man is silhouetted in the shade as he walks by the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

With all 203 of the state’s House seats and half of the Senate seats up for re-election in November, voters can play a big part in determining what democracy will look like in the commonwealth.

Ever wonder why Pennsylvnia’s minimum wage has remained a paltry $7.25 per hour since 2009, why the state lags behind so many others in the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana, and why reproductive rights in the commonwealth hang in the balance? Look no further than the state legislature.

While many folks are hard-pressed to name their representatives in the state House and state Senate, these elected officials arguably have the most impact on the day-to-day lives of Pensylvanians. They determine funding for everything from school districts to road repairs. They set laws to protect communities from being marginalized or discriminated against. They establish (or attempt to, at least) the legislative districts that determine who represents Pennsylvanians both in Harrisburg and Washington.

Now is a good time to learn the names of your state legislators, because this year in Pennsylvania, all 203 state House seats and 25 Senate seats are up for election.

The state House of Representatives currently has 88 Democrats and 112 Republicans filling the 203 available seats. Three seats are vacant. Republicans have controlled the state House for 24 of the last 30 years. 

In the state Senate, there are 20 Democrats, 28 Republicans, and one Independent. One of the 50 total seats is vacant. Republicans have controlled the Senate for the past 27 years.

The makeup of the state legislature is crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and elections in Pennsylvania. Earlier this summer, state Republicans passed a series of constitutional amendments that greatly restrict abortion access, voter rights, and the power of the governor’s office. This was done to give voters the final say on these matters—a governor can’t veto a constitutional amendment.

The best chance now of preventing these amendments from making it to the ballot would be if Democrats took over the majority in either the state House or Senate in November’s election. With all 203 of the state’s House seats and half of the Senate seats up for re-election, it’s all tall order. 

By voting for state legislators, you have the power to effect change. When citizens take an active role in determining who represents them in state government, the interests of their communities stand a better chance of being served. Issues such as marriage equality first gained traction at the state level across the country before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex mariage across the US in 2015.

Pennsylvania’s state legislators are crucial in determining what democracy will look like in the commonwealth. Issues like abortion, education, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, workers’ rights, elections, healthcare, voting rights, housing, gun control, criminal justice reform, and more are in their hands. By getting involved and voting for state legislators who represent your interests, you have a say in Pennsylvania’s future.