Critics say GOP redistricting plan makes little improvement

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf center accompanied by state House Minority Leader Rep. Frank Dermody right D-Allegheny and state Rep. Joe Markosek left D-Allegheny discuss state budget negotiations at the state

The Pennsylvania court system may have ruled the current map of Pennsylvania's congressional districts unconstitutional - resulting in new maps being drawn for the upcoming elections - but the decision and its effect will be moot in two or three years.

In a 137-page opinion issued last Wednesday, a divided state Supreme Court said Pennsylvania's 2011 redistricting plan was "aimed at achieving unfair partisan gain" and undermined "voters" ability to exercise their right to vote in free and "equal' elections".

The court's ruling gave lawmakers until February 9 to draw up a new map. In a separate letter to the two top Republicans, Wolf said he was open to considering a new proposal, approved by the legislature, ahead of the Thursday deadline.

Corman says they will be meeting with Wolf again, and the governor is hopeful the General Assembly can submit a new map to him.

"Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party, which is the essence of why the court found the current map to be unconstitutional", Wolf said, which is why he rejected it.

In a statement, House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati dismissed Wolf's objections to the Republican plan as "absurd" and called on the governor to release details of any recommendations he plans to make to the court.

Wolf pointed to several experts who said the newest GOP map was partisan. That question, some legal experts have suggested, was further muddled by Turzai and Scarnati - rather then the entire Legislature - developing and approving the new map.

The lawmakers had claimed their new map "complies fully with" the Supreme Court's January 22 order that district boundaries should be as "compact and contiguous" as possible and should hold a near equal number of residents and split as few election wards, municipalities and counties as possible. The new maps have to be accepted by the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, who is a Democrat. Holder is now leading the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an effort to counteract Republican efforts to use the redistricting process to increase their majorities in Congress.

The previous Gerrymandering of Congressional districts hit hardest in the Philadelphia suburbs, including Chester County, where both District 7 and District 6 were seen as deeply manipulated to maintain the seats for Republicans. They could consider proposals by Wolf, state lawmakers and other parties to the gerrymandering case.

State Rep. Jim Cox, a Spring Township Republican, believes the court will violate the power of the legislative branch if it has a hand in drawing the map.

Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said the governor does not have a map ready to submit.

While lawmakers followed the Supreme Court mandate to make districts more compact and mindful of municipal and county borders, some say the map does not adequately level the political playing field.

The court recently struck down the 2011 GOP-drawn map as an example of partisan gerrymandering. "Also at the same time, they've minimized to some extent the number of split counties, and split towns, but at the end of the day, I think the democrats concerns about this map are justified".

"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.

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