Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Redistricting battle looms at state Capitol after governor rejects GOP map

Redistricting battle looms at state Capitol after governor rejects GOP map

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is rejecting a new Republican-drawn map of Pennsylvania's congressional districts, saying it "clearly seeks to benefit one political party" and is not a suitable replacement for the state's current map that has been ruled unconstitutional.

Absent an agreement between Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature, the court plans to draw new lines itself by Monday, with help from an independent redistricting expert. Wolf had until February 15 to decide if he'd approve the changes.

The maps were created to address the guidance provided by the Supreme Court regarding making the districts more compact and contiguous, Drew Crompton, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, told reporters Friday night.

The state Supreme Court's January 21 decision in League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania garnered significant attention and has been incorporated into the national debate about the fairness of politicians drawing the lines of their own voting blocs.

Republican leaders split the borough of Lansford between two congressional districts and placed other Carbon County municipalities into new districts on a map that they drafted and sent to the governor for approval. All three found that the districts were skewed toward Republicans, though two of the tests showed a GOP advantage that was slightly less than under the current districts.

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A Stanford Professor already has been retained by the Supreme Court to consult on the redraw of the Congressional map.

"We can not respond until we see his map", he said. "We'd have to take a hard look at it when the maps are completed, but we're ruling nothing out at this point".

A spokesman for state House Democrats said their analysis of the GOP proposal indicates Republican President Donald Trump would have collected more votes in 13 of 18 districts, one more than he actually did win.

The new map needs to be in place prior to the May 15 primary. A court-drawn map would nearly certainly result in more Democratic-held seats-potentially as many as two to three more.

The redrawing holds ramifications for the upcoming midterm elections.

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"A few weeks ago, when we started talking about this, we didn't at all anticipate that it would be on the heels of a Pennsylvania supreme court decision, so we could not have timed that any better", he said.

According to Gov. Wolf's press secretary, JJ Abbott, the governor and his team are finalizing their review. At a minimum, the court said, the map needed to be compact and contiguous, maintain roughly equal populations in each district and not unnecessarily split communities. If not, the court has indicated it may develop one of its own.

Dickinson College assistant professor of political science David O'Connell said "the map is more compact than now the state's districting has been".

Corman says the U.S. Constitution gives lawmakers the power to draw congressional boundaries.

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