Supreme Court hears reapportionment arguments
State legislators will run within the boundaries of their current districts Nov. 6, but the shape of those districts will change before they run again in 2014, DnG WHFKnLFDlly wKLlH WKHy’UH Ln RIfiFH. :KDW WKRVH nHw PDSV wLll lRRN like is still up in the air.
Attorneys representing challenges to the state’s Legislative Reapportionment mlan appealed to the mennsylvania Supreme Court Sept. 13 to throw out the PDSV UHFRnfiJuULnJ WKH VWDWH HRuVH DnG Senate districts. It was unknown when the court would issue a decision, but whatever the outcome, the court’s order will not impact the November election.
The 2011 state House and Senate reapportionment maps approved by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission based on the 2010 Census were rejected Ey WKH 6uSUHPH CRuUW Ln D 4-3 vRWH Ln January. A federal court ruled in February that the November 2012 election would proceed under the 2001 reapportionment plan — the current boundaries.
A revised plan was subsequently approved by the LRC, but 13 separate groups challenged that plan.
The reapportionment plan is required to provideW population equality to the extent possible; maintain the integrity of municipal boundaries; and provide for the continuity and compactness of districts. Challengers maintain the second plan still has too many split counties, municipalities and wards, and fails to provide the amount of compact and contiguous districts that it could. The state Constitution says splits should only be made when “absolutely necessary,” they maintained.
Adam Bonin, an attorney for a challHnJH filHG Ey 0RnWJRPHUy CRunWy Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro and a number of other Montgomery County residents, argued that the county of 800,000 residents could support 3.2 state Senate seats. The map under consideration, he said, divides the county into six Senate districts, none being entirely within Montgomery County and one straddling three counties.
In the House, the population would support 13 districts, but the map has 18 districts encompassing parts of Montgomery County, seven of which straddle county lines and one being in three counties. There are 13 splits of township and municipal lines, “none [of which are] absolutely necessary,” Bonin said.
Lower Merion Township is in four different House districts, he noted.
“None represent communities of interest,” he said, and were created for “what we believe are partisan motivations.”
An effort to draw districts in order to maintain incumbents’ seats — not put an incumbent’s place of residence outside his or her district boundaries — was one point of contention. Historically, an attempt is made to not draw districts in a way that would force one incumbent to face off with another, but Bonin maintained the process was developed to have a commission reapportion the districts “because sometimes you need to extinguish [House] members.”
tilliam Stickman, an attorney for the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, said the redrawn map reduced the number of Senate splits from seven to fivH. 0RnWJRPHUy CRunWy LV WKH WKLUG most populous county in the state, he said, making it “absolutely necessary to split subdivisions.”
“te’re not trying to hide a bad plan,” Stickman said. “It’s a good and solid plan.”
“then you split the third largest county into six Senate districts, you leave it with no representation,” said Justice Max Baer.
“te leave it with six Senators,” Stickman responded.
Shapiro, contacted the day after the hearing, said, “If the [Supreme] Court DSSlLHV WKH WHVW LW uVHG Ln WKH fiUVW UHGLVtricting decision and looks at the alternate proposed maps then it should strike down this map as well.
“Compelling evidence was presented to the court that municipalities like Upper Dublin and Lower Merion were not split for legitimate reasons but instead for partisan gain and to protect Republican incumbents. For that reason alone it should be found unconstitutional just lLNH WKH fiUVW PDS.”