Democrats see partisanship in GOP Pennsylvania district map
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Democrats on Saturday described a revised congressional district map being proposed by Republican leaders as too partisan, citing as evidence the results of the 2016 presidential campaign.
The United States Supreme Court declined an appeal from Republicans to stop Pennsylvania from having to draw new maps for its congressional elections. The state supreme court ruled that the current map is excessively partisan, and that it amounts to a gerrymander intended to disfavor democrats. The state court held that the current maps violate the Pennsylvania constitution. The ruling gave the legislature three weeks to come up with a new plan. If the state fails to meet the deadline the court said it would draft its own map.
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 Legislature’s two top-ranking Republicans unveiled their proposed map late Friday, three weeks after the five Democrats on the state Supreme Court declared the existing map unconstitutional because it put partisan aims above other map-drawing criteria.
Drew Crompton, a senior Senate Republican aide involved in developing the map, said voter performance was not considered for any candidate.
“I don’t know how many districts Trump won” or how any district performed for any candidate, Crompton said. “We did not run that data.”
Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point, a key victory in his electoral coalition.
The Democratic voters who successfully challenged the state’s congressional district map in state court called the Republicans’ proposed replacement a “naked partisan gerrymander.” They said Saturday the map would divide populous southeastern counties for partisan gain.
The map by House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati would reduce dozens of municipal or county divisions while keeping nearly 70 percent of state residents in their existing districts. The Turzai-Scarnati map would split 32 counties and municipalities, 62 fewer than the 2011 map.
“The districts are compact. The districts limit splits dramatically. The districts comply with the Voting Rights Act. Confusion for voters has been minimized,” Crompton said.
Under terms of a Jan. 22 court order, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has until Thursday to tell the justices if the General Assembly has produced a map he supports. If not, the court has indicated it may develop one of its own.
The court has said to expect a new map by Feb. 19 for the May primary. It will not be used for a March 13 special election to fill a vacancy in southwestern Pennsylvania created by the resignation of Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.
Pennsylvania’s Republican-crafted 2011 map has resulted in a 13-to-5 Republican edge in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation for the past three elections. Pennsylvania is a swing state in presidential elections and Democrats have a winning record in recent statewide elections, but Republicans hold firm majorities in both legislative chambers.
If new maps help Democrats flip Republican seats in Pennsylvania, it would help their party get closer to the goal of retaking majority control in the U.S. House this fall.
Wolf’s office has said it may not comment on the GOP proposal until Monday.
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