Supreme Court hears reap­por­tion­ment ar­gu­ments

The Ambler Gazette - - OPINION - By Linda Finarelli

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.