My petition was filed on July 9, marking yet another milestone on my redistricting journey. But I get ahead of the story. It has been 30 days since my last update and a lot has transpired in that time.
June 8, the LRC (Legislative Reapportionment Commission) met to vote on a final plan. Various plans were presented, the Commission members each made comment, and a final plan passed with a 4-1 vote (Sen. Costa was the lone no vote).
This vote moved the redistricting process into the next phase — the 30 day period for filing an appeal. Any Pennsylvania resident who felt they had been wrongly treated (particularly due to a constitutional violation) might appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The last day for filing an appeal was on Monday, July 9.
After the meeting, I went home and reviewed the Final Plan using constitutional analysis.
The part of the constitution that talks about redistricting (Article II Section 16) is there to protect Pennsylvania residents from a dilution of their voice in the redistricting process. It includes several rules, each of which are designed to preserve the significance of each person in our government. It harms the representative voice of the individual when those rules are marginalized or ignored.
Using the quick tests I mentioned in my previous Senate Recap post, we find that:
- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are divided in excess for no constitutional reason
- Wards are inexplicably divided, despite overwhelming evidence that all might remain whole
- Dauphin County still has no district all its own
Added to this, we find that the Final Plan added or increased the divisions in Cumberland, Huntingdon, and Warren Counties. The direction this should be heading is down, not up. Such unconstitutional divisions only serve to dilute the voice of Pennsylvanians.
Using the quick tests I mentioned in my previous House Recap post, we find that:
- Tiny Forest County (with less than 10,000 people) is still split as is Bradford County
- The City of Pittsburgh continues to be divided in excess for no constitutional reason
- Lower Merion (Mont. Co) and Radnor Twp. (Dela. Co.) are also divided without constitutional cause
- None of the non-contiguous pieces in Lancaster (or anywhere else) are connected to a neighboring district
- HD 77, 82, and 189 remain unchanged and so continue to lack compactness
Once again we find many cases where the voices of Pennsylvania residents are chopped up into such small pieces that their say is rendered inaudible or insignificant. Added to this, we find no constitutional reason behind these excessive divisions — contiguity, compactness, respect for minorities, and population equality might all improve while still drastically reducing the dilution caused by avoidable divisions.
Basically, my petition brings up the types of grievances mentioned above. Of course, it uses far more words with a lot more details, illustrations, and legal stuff. 14 different petitions were filed in all (you can read them online).
Now that the appeals have been filed, a paper exchange begins (no, that is probably not the correct legal term). Each side takes a turn explaining their points in writing. Those making an appeal (petitioners, like me) submitted the first piece of the paper trail on July 9. Now the LRC (called “the respondent”) gets to submit their answer to our appeal by July 23.
Then the petitioners submits a “brief” by August 6, which — contrary to what the name might suggest — includes a rather lengthy and detailed account of their reasons for appealing and what they would like to see happen to address the matter. The LRC submits their answer by August 20.
Once the paper exchange is done, then everyone can also make their case in person. That is called “Oral Argument”. It should take place sometime between September 10-14 in Philadelphia. The Judges can (and typically do) ask questions of both sides so they better understand everything. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears a case, they do not make a decision right away but take several days (or even longer) to think everything over before making their ruling.
This process exists because people matter and how they are heard matters. May justice and the rule of law prevail!