Déjà vu: Pa. legislative map back before Supreme Court

    So let’s try this again.

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Thursday heard lengthy arguments over whether new boundaries for state lawmakers’ districts have been drawn fairly, reprising a battle fought last year.

     

    State House and Senate districts have to be redrawn every 10 years with the new census. In January, the court shocked legislative leaders by tossing out a map drawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, composed of top Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and a fifth person appointed by the court.

    The commission has since drawn a new map, and it’s now under challenge.

    Election lawyer Kevin Greenberg says at issue is whether the map meets the requirement that communities be kept intact as much as possible.

    “The commission may split a county, a city, a ward, any political division only where it is ‘absolutely necessary,’ ” Greenberg said. “That’s in Article two, Section 16 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

    Several plaintiffs say political leaders hacked up many communities to keep districts safe for incumbents — splitting Montgomery County, for example into eight senatorial districts.The Republican Majority Leader of the State Senate, Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County, says he knows every community wants to remain whole.”It’s simply impossible to do when you realize the number of counties, the number of boroughs, the number of townships, the number of cities,” Pileggi said in a phone interview. “When you only have 50 senators, there needs to be division.”Greenberg, who joined in the challenge to last year’s map, says it’s a question of degree.

    “Yes, you have to split things up,” he said. “You do not have to split them anywhere near this much.”Greenberg said one plaintiff, citizen activist Amanda Holt, produced a map that split very few communities. He said the commission’s map includes many bizarrely drawn districts clearly aimed at preserving incumbents. Pileggi counters that the Constitution recognizes the realities of politics in naming legislative caucus chairs to the reapportionment commission, and he says the district boundaries are fair.The court will now consider the case. Republican Chief Justice Ron Castille, who broke party ranks to overturn the last plan, is considered the key vote.

     

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