Legislature

Proposed Congressional map advances in PA Legislature as Wolf and key lawmakers prepare for court battle – Reuters

The governor and key lawmakers face a Jan. 30 deadline to complete Congress’ map or state courts will take over.

Spotlight PA’s Kate Huangpu

This article is part of a year-long reporting project focusing on redistricting and gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. It is made possible thanks to the support of PA projector members and Votebeat, a project focused on election integrity and access to the vote.

HARRISBURG — A state Senate panel voted on Tuesday to advance a reshuffle of Pennsylvania’s congressional map as a top Republican expressed hope that his party and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf could still achieve to a compromise with an imminent legal deadline.

Nonpartisan analysts say the map, originally proposed by House Republicans, has a clear advantage for the GOP. While pausing before swearing a veto, Wolf has previously said he opposes the map in its current form and expressed concern about the map’s partisan bias.

Wolf and lawmakers face two major deadlines. The state’s top election official said her department needs a final map by Jan. 24 to meet the first of several spring primary deadlines. And the Commonwealth Court has given those responsible for drawing the map until January 30 to do so before resuming the process.

The state government‘s Senate committee chairs — David Argall (R., Schuylkill) and Sharif Street (D., Philadelphia) — previously pledged to release their own proposed map. On Tuesday, Argall was still focused on getting Wolf something the governor would sign off on.

“Bipartisan negotiations are underway with Senator Street and others in the hope that we can reach a compromise that can be accepted by a majority of the four caucuses, signed by the governor and approved by the courts, which has was our share. goals since the beginning of this process,” Argall said.

Street said he wouldn’t vote for the map in its current form, but appreciated “the spirit in which we’re moving forward.”

If Democrats and Republicans reach a compromise, Argall’s office said the current congressional proposal would be modified to “avoid delaying the primary.”

But as time goes on, it has become increasingly likely that the final map will be chosen by state courts in an ongoing lawsuit.

In December, two citizens’ groups asked the Commonwealth Court to restart the process in order to maintain the May primary date. In recent days, the court said it would allow Wolf and lawmakers from both major parties to step in and submit their own proposed maps by Jan. 24. Hearings are scheduled for the following Thursday and Friday.

In its original form, the map of Congress under consideration in the Legislature was drawn by Amanda Holt, a former Republican Lehigh County commissioner and well-known redistricting advocate.

However, it was changed in the House State Government Committee after Republican members objected to the way their counties were divided. This version was presented to the public and advanced by the panel at the same meeting.

Wolf recently released his own proposed Congressional map, saying it and a citizen-drawn map championed by Draw the Lines — an initiative of the good government organization Committee of Seventy — were “gerrymandering-free” and compliant with principles published by the Governor. advisory board.

Wolf’s map and the legislature’s proposal meet four basic fairness criteria adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

But while reformist redistricting groups have said the Republicans’ advanced map does not reflect the partisan makeup of the state, Wolf’s map does, according to nonpartisan measures.

An analysis by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project for The Inquirer found that Wolf’s map would create nine Democratic or Democrat-leaning districts and eight Republican or Republican-leaning. Due to low population growth, Pennsylvania is losing one of its 18 congressional seats this year.

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