ERIE, Pa. — After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the state’s congressional map to be unconstitutional last month, lawmakers were tasked with drawing and submitting a new one by Feb. 9.
“The Pennsylvania State Constitution, which was the basis of the recent state Supreme Court decision, says that government entities or political entities are to be divided as little as possible,” said Robert Speel, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at Penn State, The Behrend College.
Fair Districts PA hopes to see the law go a step further.
“Drawn in an impartial way without using voter election data. So that the people who are drawing the maps aren’t thinking about how do we draw these maps to keep one party in office,” said Carol Kuniholm, chair and co-founder of the nonpartisan, volunteer organization.
Kuniholm and Speel were the featured speakers at the Jefferson Educational Society’s program on Thursday, which addressed the history and impact of gerrymandering.
State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-3rd District, said the existing districts and the present way of doing things mean that politicians can choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their legislators.
“I think that the Supreme Court was absolutely right in making this decision,” he said. “I don’t think any political party, Democrat or Republican, should have the one-up in drawing districts to favor them.”
Erie County is currently split between districts three and five. State Rep. Curt Sonney, R-4th District, supports Erie County being covered under one district, but he said “it’s impossible not to split some of those municipalities. It’s just impossible.”
As time runs out, it could be nearly impossible to present a new map to Gov. Tom Wolf by the Feb. 9 deadline.
“So, right now, we’re in limbo,” said Bizzarro. “Pennsylvanians are in limbo. What looks like is going to end up happening at the end of the day is the Supreme Court is just going to be tasked with drawing this map moving forward.”
That idea irks Sonney.
“They have every right to say that it’s not constitutional,” he said. “But in my mind, in my opinion, is they have no right to put out another map. It’s absolutely a legislative function.”
In the event that an agreement is made, Wolf would need to approve the map no later than Feb. 15.