PA GOP proposes replacing gerrymandered map…with another gerrymandered map

Photo: Joe Scarnati

Last Friday was the court-imposed deadline for Pennsylvania state legislators to submit their proposed new Congressional district map, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last month that the current map was unconstitutional.

After the failure of previous measures — an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a refusal by the Senate’s president pro tempore to hand over demographic data, and even a proposal to impeach the majority of the state Supreme Court — the legislature’s Republican majority tried something else: a proposed map that’s nearly as Republican-leaning as the previous one.

The map was actually submitted to Gov. Tom Wolf by the Republican leaders of each house of the legislature, without a vote in either chamber. It was also reportedly drawn without input from Democrats, who said in a statement that they had not seen the map before it was submitted to the governor.

As for the map itself, while it no longer features the strange shapes of the current map and has more respect for city and county lines, it’s still drawn in such a way that favors Republicans nearly as much as the status quo:

Redistricting expert Brian Amos told the Washington Post that the previous map featured a Republican majority in 12 of the 18 districts, according to 2016 voting data. The new map? It also features a Republican majority in 12 of the 18 districts, in a state where Donald Trump won the overall vote by less than a percentage point.

Not only that, but the map would move several of the strongest Democratic candidates into different districts. According to an Inquirer analysis, Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat currently running in the 6th District, would now live in the 7th District, making Republican incumbent Ryan Costello’s reelection more likely. Meanwhile, Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate in March’s special election in the 18th District, would be moved out of that district into the 14th. That means Lamb could win the special election, which would be conducted under the current district map — and then move to an incumbent vs. incumbent showdown in November against Republican Mike Doyle.

If you want an idea of what a fairer Pennsylvania congressional map might look like, Robert Wheel drew that up in November for 50 States of Blue.

Gov. Wolf has until Thursday to review the legislature’s version. If he rejects it, the court will draw its own map, relying on the work of another redistricting expert, Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University.