Pennsylvania Legislative District Redraw 2022: First Draft



Click here to view the handout and draft maps. 

I ask that you consider five principles as you draw legislative maps.

Consider this definition of absolute necessity = no other recourse is available.

One part of the Pennsylvania Constitution states to that divisions to jurisdictions should be made unless absolutely necessary. If other constitutional parameters may be met without dividing a jurisdiction, is that split absolutely necessary? I would suggest it is not because a recourse exists to avoid it. When there is a recourse to avoid a division, then it is no longer absolutely necessary.

Consider the definition of “equal as practicable”

This is something that was debated at length at the constitutional convention of 1968. It was unclear at the time what overall population range the Courts would allow in legislative districts moving forward.

Some thoughts a 30% overall range would be fine. Others said it should be 20%. In the end, they decided to defer to the yet-to-be-determined Court standard. Today, we know this to be a 10% overall range.

But is that too high? Many US Supreme Court Justices have found it to an acceptable range. The minor harm it may cause is worth the ability it gives to protect the boundaries of jurisdictions.

  • Justice Warren: “some distinctions may well be made between congressional and state legislative representation. Since, almost invariably, there is a significantly larger number of seats in state legislative bodies to be distributed within a State than congressional seats, it may be feasible to use political subdivision lines to a greater extent in establishing state legislative districts than in congressional districting while still affording adequate representation to all parts of the State.”
  • Justice White: “Minor deviations from mathematical equality among state legislative districts do not make out a prima facie case of invidious discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
  • Justice O’Connor, after quoting Justice White, added: “Our decisions have established, as a general matter, that an apportionment plan with a maximum population deviation under 10% falls within this category of minor deviations.”

In fact, the Constitutional Convention agreed. They found that divisions to jurisdictions should only be permitted to meet population thresholds. They did not suggest divisions should be allowed to create compact or contiguous districts.

  • In Proposal 1 we do provide for the compact, contiguous districts with no ward, borough, county, and so forth, lines being divided unless absolutely necessary under the one-man, one-vote rule. (Delegate Baldrige)

Ignoring this rule to avoid divisions leaves discretionary decisions unchecked and exposes a district plan to manipulation.

It is the most common population range found in other state redistricting plans. 27 states  used variances between 8% and 10% in 2010.

I would ask you to consider not dividing jurisdictions for population reasons unless there is no other recourse available that would keep the plan within a 10% overall range.

Consider the definition of contiguous

Thanks to Charles II, Pennsylvania has an island. There are also other small geographic anomalies throughout the state.

In previous redistricting plans, these geographic anomalies were permitted to exist (even though technically not contiguous).

I would ask that you consider continuing with this practice.

Consider the definition of compactness

In previous redistricting plans, no precise or mathematical standard has been established. Because of geographic boundaries do not fall into neat shapes, I would agree that this is a principle better adhered to in a general sense rather than a specific standard.

Consider the definition of minority districts

While not covered by the Pennsylvania constitution, districts must still not discriminate against minorities. Consider minority districts ones in which the voting age population of one minority group is greater than the white voting age population.

The considerations I just outlined are reflected in the draft map I am presenting today.

First, to clarify terms.

  • Splits: The number of places divided
  • Total splits: The number of times places are divided
  • Pre-determined splits: Required based on the population of a place without any other considerations.
  • Discretionary splits: Divisions not inherently required by the population of a place.

Total splits is the more important number, but the split count should still be monitored so you don’t end up with another Monroe county situation.

The number I would like to focus on is the one that can be controlled – discretionary splits. The only permissible divisions are ones which are unavoidable to meet equal population or VRA requirements.

In this map, I worked with a 10% overall range.

For VRA requirements, I referenced the number of minority districts (and locations) in 2011 as well as reviewing the populations of neighboring districts. Adjustments were made using the minimum divisions needed to meet VRA requirements as presently understood.

I made an effort to keep district numbers within their current counties, but the precise boundaries might not line up. I didn’t consider incumbents when drawing districts. I did consider school district boundaries.

Were divisions absolutely necessary to meet equal population requirements?  Yes. To keep districts within the 10% overall range, discretionary divisions were necessary.

Were discretionary divisions absolutely necessary to meet VRA requirements?  Yes. Half of the places and ward divisions were to create minority districts (especially in Pittsburgh).

Are districts contiguous? Yes, based on past practices

  • Dave’s Redistricting app identified one district with a geographic anomaly
  • District Builder identified 4 districts.
  • I believe there are 3.

Are districts compact? Generally speaking, they are compact.

This demonstrates it is possible to create a plan which meets all constitutional and federal requirements, including the requirement to make the absolute minimum divisions to the places we live.

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