By Amanda, 18.Feb.2018
With the failure of the General Assembly and Governor to approve a map by the court deadline, it now falls to Nathaniel Persily to draw Pennsylvania’s next congressional map. This court-appointed special master is known for his skills as a mapmaker in other states. No matter how skilled, no one is perfect. How will we know if he gets it right in Pennsylvania?
The court directive to keep counties and municipalities whole was clear. Strong constitutional language bans any splits that are not necessary. Federal courts provide states with some flexibility to district population so they may protect the boundaries of their local governments.
In some instances, by creating districts which vary slightly in population, counties and municipalities may stay whole which would otherwise be split. Pennsylvania law does not require mathematical equality. Federal law allows small deviations to avoid splits.
What does this mean? A split is not “absolutely necessary” when by using a small population variance the result would respect more local government boundaries than is possible by using no variance….
keep reading by Amanda
By Amanda Holt, 10.Feb.2018
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai submitted a new congressional map proposal to Governor Wolf late yesterday evening.
While the map is undeniably an improvement over the 2011 version, a deeper analysis shows some shortcomings and reveals several choices with far-reaching impacts.
Unnecessary Splits Remain
At a county level, Delaware County and at least one of the four divisions in Montgomery County are not needed. 16 of the proposed 17 municipal splits might also be avoided. Nothing was released on the number of Wards split, meaning the total split count will likely increase once those stats are available. (Note the state split counts are estimates based on data available today.)
Three key choices created a chain-reaction which directed the placement of district boundaries.
Choice 1: Preserve Philadelphia-Delaware connection. By moving CD 1 into Delaware County it meant more population was needed from neighboring Chester and Montgomery Counties. This led to splitting Delaware County and creating an extra split in Montgomery County….
keep reading at Amanda Holt. See also, on our site, “Surprise: R leaders were working on a map after all.”
Amanda Holt, the dedicated citizen whose work featured in the 2012 redesign of PA House and Senate districts, has weighed in with a new version of her 2018 proposal for redrawing PA Congressional districts–the job that the PA legislative leaders are claiming is too onerous for them to complete with all their institutional resources, which are so highly developed when it comes to computer-based gerrymandering. Holt now is proposing districts even more precisely equal in population. Comparing to her previous iteration, we notice little change in most areas but a very significant one for Chester County, which she now shows as undivided. This seems only fair, since Chesco currently is divided among 3 districts. Delco would also remain undivided, whereas Lancaster County would be divided between the 6th and 16th districts.
Common Sense Equality
By Amanda E, 3.Feb.2018
Most people would think a difference of 19 persons or even 125 persons is insignificant in a district of over 700,000 persons. But the US Supreme Court is not most people.
The opinion of the US Supreme Court matters to Pennsylvania in the event the congressional districts are challenged. Map drawers, realizing this, typically keep in mind the interests and perspective of US Supreme Court when drawing maps.
The US Supreme Court defines population equality as numeric exactness. Districts may stray from precise equality, but each numeric difference must be justified by a legitimate state objective which passes their scrutiny. Do not be fooled. The Justices are meticulous.
Recognizing this dynamic, I made a second effort to keep all municipalities whole (other than Philly), keep county splits to a minimum, and get each district as close to 0 as possible. The result was a reduction from a difference of 125 persons to 21 persons….
keep reading at Amanda E
by Amanda Holt, 25 Jan 2018. [Amanda Holt was the hero of the redistricting controversy after the 2010 census, and in the first legal challenge the PA Supreme Court specifically cited her proposal as proof that the General Assembly could have done better to respect the PA constitution in redistricting the PA Senate and House. Now comes the next round: US Congress. Her proposal below puts all of Delaware County in district 7 but splits Chester County between the 6th (with all of Berks County) and 16th (with all of Lancaster County, thus fairly close to the current boundaries). Theoretically Chester County, which comprises about 5/7 of the population of one district, could be entirely in the 6th with a slice of Berks or Lancaster; but certainly being split between 2 districts is better than 3, and combining with one other county is better than with 3. If legislators say they don’t have time to complete their map by the Feb. 9 deadline, all the Court will need to do is refer them to the map that Amanda produced in a few days. The power of the motivated citizen!]
6 years ago today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the State Senate and House districts were unconstitutional based on the evidence presented in my case. Just 2 days ago, this same court declared another legislative map unconstitutional — the map configuring congressional districts.
The court order gives the main point of their decision: Section 16 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (which protects county, municipal, and ward boundaries when forming districts) also applies to congressional districts.
What would it look like if a congressional map did not divide any municipalities? I asked myself this question and came up with the following answer.
These districts would afford equal representation through impartially drawn districts, unlike the ones currently in place.
keep reading Amanda Holt for explanation of the constitutional advantages of her proposal. For background search Amanda Holt in our site’s right sidebar and see especially “Allentown woman shows Harrisburg how to make a legislative map” by Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 2012.