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Redistricting: What Comes Next

By Keegan Gibson and Sari Heidenreich

After nearly a week of delays, Pennsylvania lawmakers released the new congressional map on Tuesday afternoon. There’s a detailed look at the changes, and how they benefit the GOP, below.

Unlike state redistricting which required the approval of a special commission, the congressional map must be approved like a regular piece of legislation. Given GOP control over the Pa. House, Pa. Senate and Governor’s mansion, it is likely that it will be the final version. Identical versions will be introduced in the House and Senate Wednesday.

The bill is set for a vote by the Senate State Government committee and the Senate Appropriations committee Wednesday morning and a final Pa. Senate vote Wednesday night – its last day of session before the holiday recess. The Pa. House is expected to pass the bill next week. After that, Gov. Tom Corbett will (almost certainly) sign it into law.

As of Tuesday afternoon the House is only scheduled to be in session on December 14, 15, 19, and 20 before breaking for the holiday.

After it is signed into law, parties claiming to be aggrieved have the ability to challenge the map in state and federal court. There, its constitutionality would be assessed based on compactness, population equality, number of municipal splits, and minority representation.

The question of whether bald-faced partisan gerrymandering is legal has not been definitively settled by the courts. It’s OK according to the most recent applicable case, Veith v. Jubelirer (2004), because there is no definitive standard for what constitutes gerrymandering.

Larry Ceisler is a political strategist and the founder of Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy. He provided expert testimony on behalf of congressional Democrats in their ultimately unsuccessful suit against the 2002 proposed map. Full disclosure: he is also one of three owners of PoliticsPA.
“Obviously whoever drew this map anticipated a decrease in the price of gasoline because some of these House Members will be either putting in many hours on the roads or will rack up a lot of in state frequent flyer miles,” he said.“Whether it is challengeable, I do not know. The GOP knows how close they can come to the line without crossing it and I have to believe that is what they did in this case. But sometimes, even the most rosy scenario that is drawn by the linesmen comes back to haunt them in the end. That is the chance you take with an overreach.”

Good government advocates have consistently complained that the redistricting process is too secretive and faulted the lawmakers last week for not putting out maps sooner.

Candidates running for office 2012 start circulating their nominating petitions for on January 24 and Barry Kauffman, director of the nonpartisan political watchdog group Common Cause, says it’s going to take a minimum of five voting days to get a bill passed through both houses. And that’s “that’s if everything ran just like clockwork,” Kauffman said.

One Response

  1. Looking at CDs 7 and 11 tells u who the pa GOP weakest links are…Barletta and Meehan…the lengths to which they have had to go to such extremes to try and save these guys would be comical if not so sad.

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