Friday, February 9, 2018

Senate, House Republican Leaders Submit Revised Congressional District Plan To Gov. Wolf

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) late Friday announced they submitted a letter to Gov. Wolf containing new Congressional district boundaries in response to the PA Supreme Court order in the gerrymandering case.
Gov. Wolf said, through a spokesperson, he would review the submission, but House and Senate Democrats asked the Governor to reject the map outright because it was not adopted through the normal legislative process.
In a joint statement, Sen. Scarnati and Rep. Turzai said only, “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.  We will be submitting our map to the Governor this evening.”
The actual voting district descriptions were not made available with the statement.
The upper map obtained by the Allentown Morning Call shows the new Congressional districts and the old districts on the bottom.
Sen. Scarnati and Rep. Turzai said the new map--
-- This map minimizes split counties and county segments, and minimizes the number of political subdivisions split.
-- Contains contiguous districts which are compact.
-- Includes only 15 split counties (13 less than the 2011 Plan).
-- Includes only 17 split municipalities (49 less than the 2011 Plan).
-- This map, for population equality purposes splits only one precinct per municipality for a total of 17, and represents a significant reduction from the 27 precincts split in the 2002 map and the 26 precincts split in the 2011 Plan.
-- In compliance with federal law with respect to population deviations, no district is over or underpopulated by more than one person.
-- The submitted map complies with the Voting Rights Act and the concerns recently expressed by the NAACP, and the First and Second Districts in this map are substantially similar in racial composition to the 2011 Plan’s First and Second Congressional districts.
-- The map does not pair any incumbent member of Congress seeking re-election in 2018 with any other incumbent member of Congress. This consideration, however, was subordinate to the districting principles as outlined in the Court’s order.
-- In order to avoid confusion among the general public, this map retains 68.8 percent of the populations of existing districts in the same districts, which will help to reduce overall voter confusion. This retention is nearly the same for districts represented by both Republican (68.3 percent) and Democratic (69.8 percent) Members of Congress.
They may follow that up by having the House and Senate come back to session Monday and Tuesday to formally vote on the plan, but that and other possible next steps are not confirmed.
If the Governor accepts the plan, he has until February 15 to submit it to the Court.
If no plan is submitted by the General Assembly or approved by the Governor, the Court said they will draw the map based on the evidentiary record.
House/Senate Democrats
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) sent a letter to Gov. Wolf asking him to reject the map outright as a violation of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's remedy for the legislature to pass a map on to the governor through the normal legislative process.
"Ironically after spending two weeks publicly criticizing the Court for not issuing an opinion to provide them with guidance, the presiding officers promptly ignored the majority opinion," they wrote.
"For these reasons, we ask you to reject it outright. The Republican leadership in both chambers blocked this process, refused to negotiate, and have now submitted a map directly to your office that we have not even seen."
Gov. Wolf
In a statement late Friday evening, J.J. Abbott, the Governor’s Press Secretary said, “The court asked the General Assembly to submit a new map to the governor by February 9th.
“While the Court’s order did not appear to allow for two individuals to draw a map on behalf of the entire General Assembly, Gov. Wolf will review Speaker Turzai and President Scarnati’s submission in consultation with the experts retained by the administration to determine his next course of action.
“The original map was fundamentally unfair in a multitude of ways and, from the court’s orders and majority opinion, it is clear the gerrymandering of the current map went beyond manipulating the shape of the districts.”
Earlier in the day, Gov. Tom Wolf issued his own statement on redistricting--  “Over the last three weeks, empowered by the Supreme Court’s initial order striking down the current map, I worked to build a team and knowledge base to make sure Pennsylvania can get a fair map.
“In that time, I have heard personally from voters in three town hall meetings across the state that drew hundreds of attendees and nearly a thousand citizens through our online feedback form.
“The consensus is clear that Pennsylvanians are fed up with gerrymandering - and the gridlock and lack of reform that it breeds. Gerrymandering means politicians choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians, which undermines citizens’ role in our democracy.
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was right on the mark: Pennsylvanians deserve fair maps, rather than those drawn solely to benefit a particular political party. I intend to do my part to implement the Court’s order and ensure that fair maps become Pennsylvania’s new reality.
“I have enlisted an esteemed mathematician, who has done extensive work on determining fairness in mapmaking, to provide non-partisan analysis of maps to determine their fairness.
“While an ideal scenario would be a consensus map that can garner the support of both chambers in the General Assembly and that meets standards for fairness, it remains unclear, at this time, if the entire General Assembly will be engaged in such a bipartisan process.
“If not, I will evaluate what options are at my disposal to ensure Pennsylvanians get the fair map they deserve under our constitution.”
[Note: This post will be updated as more information becomes available.]

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