Redistricting: Transparent process or same old story with maps tied up in the courts?

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Redistricting was supposed to be different this year. Officials said the process of drawing congressional and state legislative seats would be more open to the public and transparent. But, it appears it is the same old story for maps being decided in the courts.

The congressional map passed the state House, mostly drawn by a citizen and mostly loved by Republicans.

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“This is how you end gerrymandering in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said State Representative Seth Grove (R), chairman of State Government Committee.

Democrats call it partisan and say they were never consulted.

“I talked to my Senate colleagues, they don’t know about the map either because no one reached out to them. They have to read it in the paper like we do,” said State Representative Scott Conklin (D), chairman of the State Government Committee.

The same story with State House Districts, only it is Republicans calling that map gerrymandered and Democrats approving.

“Unfortunately today, Dennis, we agree on almost nothing politically and this is emblematic of that,” said John Jones, president of Dickinson College and a former federal judge.

Jones says it is likely the maps get decided in court.

“When you ask judges or justices to line draw you’re getting way outside, in my view, their comfort zone and I think it becomes problematic,” Jones added.

Also problematic is the clock. There are filing deadlines ahead for the May 17 primary. Counties need to be prepared and so do the candidates.

“There are elected officials who literally don’t know where their district is, don’t know where to campaign, don’t know who your constituents are gonna be. That’s a tough world to be in,” Jones said.

Jones does know that judges don’t want to be map-makers and the newest Supreme Court Justice Kevin Brobson said as much when abc27 asked him about it in November.

“This is what I hope. I hope it doesn’t come to the courts. That’s my hope. I hope it gets resolved by the general assembly and the governor and they do their jobs,” Brobson said.

But, if they don’t do their jobs, the judges will.

“There are some who say courts are ill-equipped to do this and that’s a fair criticism but that’s where it lands. There is no alternative because it’s gridlocked,” Jones added.

It is likely the maps end up in court and, if they get tied up there, it is very likely that May 17 primary will have to be pushed.

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