Deadline looms for new PA congressional map

Feb 10, 2018, 02:08
Deadline looms for new PA congressional map

The Republican-controlled state Legislature must submit a redrawn congressional map to Gov. Tom Wolf by the end of today as per court order. Even though the decision will not affect the special election on March 13 in PA's 18th District, midterms are fast approaching, and speculation from pundits states that the PA GOP's reluctance to redraw the map potentially reflects on a fear that Democrats may have a better shot at victory.

"The Republican legislative leaders in the House and Senate have agreed to a congressional district map that complies fully with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's order and opinion", Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai said in a joint statement late on Friday.

This legal process started after the 2010 census led to redistricting efforts in the N.C. Legislature, which have been in court multiple times - first in Dickson v. Rucho, then in Cooper v. Harris (formally McCrory v. Harris), then the first North Carolina v. Covington case, and now the current proceedings.

It's no secret why the Pennsylvania GOP wants to keep the map: With cleverly drawn lines, the party has managed to win 13 out of 18 US congressional seats even in years where Democrats got the overall majority of the votes.

The court found the state's congressional district boundaries to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

"Given the exigent circumstance of the upcoming elections" the plaintiffs say, they are willing to defer proceedings with respect to other state legislative districts they are challenging on the basis of their violating the so-called "whole county provision" of the constitution that says states should avoid splitting up counties as they draw election district lines. Well, they had the audacity to rule that Pennsylvania's heavily gerrymandered congressional maps had to be redrawn in a less partisan fashion.

Critics of the map say it has improperly diluted the power of Democratic votes.

"Gerrymandering contributes to the political polarization and dysfunction in this country and is a threat to our democracy". In drawing a new map, the order said, districts should be compact and contiguous, as equal in population as possible, and split as few counties and towns as possible.

Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy wrote in her dissent that the majority opinion is inconsistent with previous case law. But, he said, the full opinion appears to preclude it.

Drew Crompton, the Senate's top lawyer, told the Post-Gazette that the court's decision raised new questions, including how much politics can play a role in drawing maps.

"I think there are legitimate federal questions", he said.

Gerrymandering critics are hoping the court will rule that voting maps can be so partisan they violate the Constitution.

"... I am troubled by the Majority's decision to strike down the 2011 congressional map on the eve of the 2018 midterm election".

He could submit a completely different map to the court.

While Republicans have said they are not ruling out additional legal challenges, they don't have any obvious options to get the court's plan stopped, said Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College. Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy - the only Republicans - filed separate dissents.

In anticipation of Friday's deadline, lawmakers have begun the preliminary procedures that could pave the way for a new map.

State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-3rd District, said the existing districts and the present way of doing things mean that politicians can choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their legislators. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable.

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