Response to the Commonwealth Court Congressional District Recommendations

On Monday, February 7, Commonwealth Court Judge McCullough recommended adoption of House Bill 2146, the map proposed and amended by Representative Seth Grove and vetoed by Governor Wolf.

Our Summary

The PA Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on February 18 to review Judge McCullough’s recommendation and make decisions on a final map. Parties to the case have until Monday, February 14, to submit responses to her recommendations.

Sometime before that the Supreme Court will also provide an adjusted primary calendar, which may keep the current primary date but adjust nomination petition deadlines, or move the primary to a later date.

McCullough’s reasoning relies heavily on testimony from the two most partisan witnesses to participate in the two days of hearing:

McCullough’s lengthy recommendation raises important legal questions:

The most important question will need clarification from the PA Supreme Court:

According to Judge McCullough (p.197, §40):

[T]he Court finds that when lines are purposely drawn to negate a natural and undisputed Republican tilt that results from the objective, traditional, and historical practice whereby Democratic voters are clustered in dense and urban areas, such activity is tantamount to intentionally configuring lines to benefit one political party over another. The Court considers this to be a subspecies of unfair partisan gerrymandering and is legally obligated, pursuant to LWV II, to look up[on] such a practice with suspicious eyes.

Outside Analysis

Campaign Legal Center’s PlanScore Project provided us with a graphic to show the array of partisan bias in the proposed maps. According to an assessment that incorporates election results across the last decade, the bill proposed by Judge McCullough has the most Republican bias of any map submitted, and falls farthest from the balanced range in the gray center of the bell curve.

Compare Scores

We’ve pulled map links and metrics into two spreadsheets for comparison:

Congressional Map Submissions

PA House and Senate Maps

We look forward to clarification on this important question from the PA Supreme Court.