Voices & Choices

Redistricting valentines – and bitter “love letters” fly as politicians battle over new Pennsylvania maps

Redistricting valentines – and bitter “love letters” fly as politicians battle over new Pennsylvania maps

Be my constitutional valid line, valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day. Tell someone you love them with a redistricting heart.

The reformers at Voters Not Politicians have a terrific set using Michigan maps.

Or visit Blair Thornburgh’s site for her classic set.

Love means never having to say your vote doesn’t count!

PA update: Dems call new GOP maps extreme outliers, GOP shoots back “quit being coy”

Even the official letters between Pennsylvania lawmakers are turning testy.

Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday rejected a new set of Pennsylvania congressional maps by state Republican leaders. The new maps were ordered by the state supreme court, which ruled in January that the previous districts violated the state constitution’s requirement that elections be “free and equal.”

Those maps, drawn by the GOP in 2011, have provided an enduring advantage this decade. Republicans have held a 13-5 edge in the state’s congressional delegation ever since 2012, and not a single seat has changed partisan hands all decade in this otherwise competitive and closely divided state.

Wolf suggested that nothing would change on the new maps. “Like the 2011 map, the map submitted to my office by Republican leaders is still a gerrymander,” the Democratic governor said. “Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party, which is the essence of why the court found the current map to be constitutional.”

Wolf asked Tufts professor Moon Duchin, one of the top academic experts on mathematics and redistricting, to analyze the GOP submission. She determined that it was an extreme outlier, “exhibiting a decidedly partisan skew that cannot be explained by Pennsylvania’s political geography or the application of traditional districting principles.”

Duchin said that she ran algorithms to generate “many millions” of alternative plans that met the state’s criteria but had less partisan bias. She said that there is no more than a “0.1 percent chance” that a plan could adhere to the Court’s demanded criteria and still favor Republicans so emphatically. “Only the 2011 plan that is currently in effect started from a more severe partisan skew and stood out more in this test.”

GOP legislative leaders fired back. In a letter to the governor, House speaker Mike Turzai and Senate president Joseph Scarnati insisted their map met the supreme court order – and that Wolf’s criticisms were “absurd.” They wrote that “it is constitutional and meets the criteria set out by the Court of compactness, contiguity and respecting political subdivisions.”

They continued:

“Your letter sets forth a nonsensical approach to governance. Quit being coy. You have had an expert engaged for over a month. You did a listening tour. It's time that you produced a map for the public to review in a transparent fashion. Produce your map and we will put it up for a vote. We will assess how logical it is, how compact it is, and whether it unduly splits counties, municipalities and communities of interest.”

If the two sides can’t quickly come to a bipartisan agreements, the 2018 maps will be drawn by special master Nate Persily, a professor at Stanford and a respected nonpartisan map-maker often retained by courts to solve similar stalemates.

More on Persily in this mini-profile here from the Allentown Morning Call and in this Charlotte Observer column, which did a deep dive into Persily’s writings and commentary after he was retained to draw maps in North Carolina.

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