The Legislative Reapportionment Commission held a second set of public hearings to allow concerned citizens, like myself, an opportunity to provide the commission with feedback on the preliminary maps released on October 31.
The released proposal apparently continued in the poor habits used in creating previous maps. It was not surprising that in light of this, the results often deviated from constitutional requirements.
Below are my remarks offered that day that highlighted my full testimony (in the 2nd Holt Legislative Proposal PDF). It proves that even using the smaller variant they used (the courts allow up to 10% and they used 3% and 6%), it is still possible to meet all constitutional requirements.
When the video is made available, I will post it here.
Update 12/2: Here is the video. Enjoy!
The modified Holt Proposal actually addressed the concerns of many others who also testified. This is because most testimony focused on the detrimental effects of splitting political subdivisions.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for the time and efforts you are investing in this redistricting process.
In looking at the proposed maps and listening to their presentation on Oct. 31, it appeared and sounded like they were created with the primary goal of protecting as many incumbents as possible (regardless of party affiliation) unless population changes made this impossible and forced a district move.
Fortunately, appearances can be deceiving. So I examined each preliminary plan to see if there was a constitutionally justifiable cause for the proposed district boundaries.
The PA Constitution gives one underlying rule (that no political subdivision be divided in forming a district) with three possible exceptions to that rule – equal population, compactness, and contiguousness. In addition, there are the requirements of the Voting Rights Act to follow.
The preliminary Senate plan contains 39 districts that include county splits instead of the 21 in the proposal before you. It divides double the number of municipalities and splits 27 wards instead of 4.
Is the higher number of divisions in the preliminary Senate plan justifiable on constitutional grounds?
- Looking at Page 3 of your packet: It is not justified on the grounds of equal population, because both plans have basically the same overall variant.
- Page 9-10: It is not justified on the grounds of compactness, because several districts in the preliminary plan are fragmented or sprawling.
- Page 11: It is not justified on the grounds of the Voting Rights Act, because both plans have the same number of minority-majority districts with the same minority statistics.
The preliminary House plan contains 64 districts that include county splits instead of 37. It divides 110 municipalities instead of 27 and 133 wards instead of 37.
Is the higher number of divisions in the preliminary House plan justifiable on constitutional grounds?
- Looking at page 4 of your packet: It is not justified on the grounds of equal population, because both plans have basically the same overall variant.
- Page 13: It is not justified on the grounds of compactness, because several districts in the preliminary plan are fragmented or sprawling.
- Page 14: It is not justified on the grounds of contiguousness, because four districts in the preliminary plan appear to contain portions that are not connected with the rest of the district.
- Page 15-17: It is not justified on the grounds of the Voting Rights Act, because the preliminary plan dilutes minorities by failing to make them the percentage of a district’s population required by law.
The proposed solution before you fulfills each constitutional requirement and abides by the Voting Rights Act while still respecting political subdivision boundaries.
Following these Constitutional rules resulted in a few additional or alternate district moves.
- Looking at Page 12 of your packet: Not one but two Senate districts move from western portion of the state. One went to the Adams/York County area. The other went to the Luzerne/Monroe County area. Also one district from Philadelphia shifted to Chester County.
- Page 18:
- While four House districts made significant moves, only one came from Allegheny County. The fourth district move came from Beaver County.
- Lehigh County’s population did not require a new district be moved into the county (portions of 7 districts already cover the county and the population only requires 6). Instead, meeting Constitutional requirements gave the district to the eastern side of Berks County.
- There were also 3 additional districts that moved to neighboring counties.
Lastly, page 12 and 17-20 show some alternate ways to draw a few districts while still meeting constitutional requirements.
It is this Commission’s sworn duty to uphold the PA Constitution above party loyalty or interests. It is your first duty to support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth. I appeal to your integrity as individuals and your duty as elected public servants that you remove the personal and party preferences apparently clouding your vision and place an adherence to the Constitution first and foremost in your loyalty regardless of the consequences.
Adherence to the law should not depend on party convenience, partisan benefit, or job security. Instead, fidelity to the law should be the impartial guide and prominent presence self-evident in any approved redistricting plan.