LRC Preliminary Maps: Exceptions

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Click here to view the presentation

Click here to view the Exceptions filed to the Senate Plan

Click here to view the Exceptions filed to the House Plan

 

I appreciate the opportunity to present exceptions to the Preliminary Senate and House Plans.

It is of paramount importance in any redistricting plan that the voice of the people be protected in the redistricting process. There are restraints designed to prevent the political process from diluting our voice. There are standards designed to maximize the voice minorities can have in the elective process.

The exceptions I will present today and have previously submitted describe how the Plans repeatedly subordinate these protections in favor of extraneous considerations.

The standard established in Bartlett v. Strickland appears clear – a majority-minority district is one in which the minority group must be 50% plus one of the VAP of a district. The preliminary House plan created 12 districts which met this standard. Yet testimony submitted shows there could be 18 such districts. Has the standard changed?

Was the failure to reach the majority-minority standard used to try and expand minority influence by creating more coalition districts? It does not appear so. The preliminary plan contains 25 districts in which the minority VAP collectively forms a majority, yet submitted testimony showed there could be 27 such districts.

The preliminary Senate and House Plans both raise concerns when examined in light of constitutional criteria. On the surface, over 70% of the discretionary splits in each preliminary map appear unnecessary to meet constitutional and federal legal requirements. They were not absolutely necessary to create districts which are compact, contiguous, of equal population, and comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The Courts have acknowledged that Plans incorporate other considerations beyond those outlined in the constitution.

The Senate Plan appears to try to achieve the following goals:

  • Create a Hispanic opportunity district (with no incumbent)
  • Avoid contests between incumbents
  • Place incumbents in districts in which they have a reasonable opportunity to win
  • Give both parties a path toward the majority

The House Plan appears to try to achieve the following goals:

  • Give both parties a path toward the majority
  • Create districts with a strong minority presence, but no incumbent
  • Limit contests between incumbents

I am not here to dispute appropriateness or value of these goals. The Commission has the right to establish priorities as it sees fit, provided they stay within the legal framework.

So the question remains: Is it possible to incorporate these other considerations without violating the constitution?

The remedies presented to this commission explore those possibilities.

  • Senate Plan:
    • 6 ward divisions were required to create a Hispanic district with a VAP of 41.4% that has no incumbent. I believe creating this district, while not legally required, would be keeping with the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.
    • The remedy creates 1 contest between Senators, not already proposed (1 division would eliminate this contest).
    • The remedy creates districts that either favor the party of the incumbent or fall within the competitive range, except in one instance.
    • The remedy appears to give both parties a path toward the majority. The fractional portion of Democratic seats is about 25.
  • House Plan:
    • The remedy shows how to create the same number of opportunity districts for minorities with no incumbent.
    • The remedy appears to give both parties a path toward the majority. The fractional portion of democratic seats is about 103, with 81 districts leaning Republican, 87 districts leaning Democratic, and the remainder in the competitive range.
    • The remedy shows how to limit contests between incumbents.

Even with divisions to accommodate these goals, each plan could still reduce the number of divisions by at least 68%. I make this point not to support additional divisions that needlessly do violence to the Constitution. This simply illustrates that the primary reason for the proposed discretionary divisions do not appear to be justified.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court underscored the danger of doing “violence to the constitutional restraints” in favor of political considerations.

The introduction of the free and equal election clause as a consideration in the redistricting process has not yet changed this assessment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found in that case that the neutral criteria were subordinated to political considerations.  The Court reiterated how neutral criteria provide basic protection against the dilution of a person’s vote.

Political and partisan considerations are allowed, but not when they damage the “floor” protection afforded by the constitution and case law.

I have submitted over 70 pages of testimony to this Commission discussing these exceptions.

I ask that you take the next 30 days to address these grievances against the voice of the people.

 

Quick Links to Submitted Maps

House Maps (the amendments are variations on Philly).

Senate Maps: 

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