With just two days until the final plan is unveiled and voted on, it seemed like an opportune moment to revisit the reasons the preliminary plan was so egregious and identify some quick clues that will strongly indicate whether or not this plan will abide by our constitution.
First, it is good to review why the 2011 Plan was remanded in the first place. Primarily, it was because of an excessive number of splits (evidence showed an over 50% reduction was possible). The Justices also noted three districts that were not compact — SD #3, #15, and #35.
Based on my statewide constitutional analysis, the Remanded 2012 Preliminary Plan fails to address the constitutional grievances noted in the remand.
It is also notable that even when doubling the deviation, the Commission still failed to minimize splits to the low level shown in the court evidence. In effect, they have not really used the deviation to minimize splits because a lower number of splits might still be achieved at the original deviation.
This is not to say that the higher deviation should be rejected. The US Supreme Court has been clear that anything under a 10% deviation is considered minor. It simply means that the higher deviation must be used to keep subdivisions whole. As illustrated above, the number of splits may be further reduced when doubling the deviation.
Sprawling vs. Compact Districts
The excessive divisions are not used to generate compact districts. People into numbers will enjoy pouring over the stats provided by Azavea.
In District 15, the Commission trimmed the ends but the basic non-compact shape remains.
Four of the five districts in Allegheny County became less compact. Most striking is Senate District 38.
Three of the seven districts in Philadelphia County became less compact. Yes, they fixed District 3 but it came at great cost to Districts 2 and 4, both of which were mentioned in public comment.
Other possible constitutional issues — like requirements for equal population, Voting Rights Act, and contiguity — were not an issue in the Revised Preliminary Senate plan.
Senate Indicator Checklist for Final Plan
When the Final Plan is revealed on June 8, it is important to watch for signs of trouble. Checking the following four elements will strongly indicate whether or not our constitution was put first:
- 6 districts in Philadelphia
- 2 districts in Pittsburgh
- No Ward splits
- District 15 entirely contained within Dauphin County
If all of these are true of the final plan, it will be a strong indication that the final plan has moved toward constitutional compliance. Of course conclusive proof will only come from statewide analysis.