PA Legislative leaders are celebrating their purported “citizens’ map” and demanding Governor Wolf sign it.
As citizens who have asked for years for a genuine citizens’ redistricting commission, we oppose both the map and the process and request Governor Wolf veto it.
While it is the case that the House State Government Committee held hearings and provided a web portal for comments and maps, we have seen no evidence that comments or maps, other than the one selected, were a genuine part of the process.
Mappers who tried to submit maps met with unexplained requirements, which meant many were not able to submit, after hours of frustration and effort. No maps were visible on that portal until just days before the deadline. In all, just 17 maps were submitted.
Those who submitted saw no explanation of requirements. In his statements about selecting a map from that portal, Representative Grove never made clear why that one map was chosen.
Yesterday, Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and House Majority Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), stated in a press release:
“The citizen-crafted map in House Bill 2146 was the only map introduced to follow the guidelines and standards set forth in the Constitution, and by all measures, puts candidates on equal footing heading into the primary and general elections, so elections can be decided by the will of the people and not political gerrymandering.”
Given that there were 17 maps submitted: by what metric did these leaders decide that was the only map that followed the guidelines and standards of the Constitution?
Four submitted maps had zero population deviation, a questionable top priority. Amanda Holt’s map, the one Rep. Grove selected, was the only one with no split precincts, but if that is also a requirement, House Bill 2146, is in violation of that requirement. In amending her map, Rep. Grove introduced 9 precinct splits.
Of submitted maps Fair Districts PA volunteers moved to Dave’s Redistricting App for analysis, Holt’s had one of the lowest compactness scores. Compactness is a PA constitutional requirement of equal importance to minimized splits. Two other maps with zero population deviation had far higher compactness scores. One of those, the Draw the Lines’ Citizens’ Map submitted by Justin Villere, the composite work of multiple PA mappers, had a compactness score almost 20% higher than the map that was chosen. If the goal was a map that included work of multiple citizens, OR a map with zero population that complied with all constitutional requirements, that would have been an obvious choice.
Quick comparison shows that the selected map had by far the highest partisan bias score of analyzed maps. According to five different PlanScore metrics, it is more biased than 87% of predicted outcomes and would give the Republican party an estimated 6.5% extra seats (at least 1 extra district) in any hypothetical 50-50 election.
On behalf of hundreds of Pennsylvanians who attempted to participate in the Congressional redistricting process, we ask Governor Wolf to veto HB 2146. It does not reflect the criteria we asked for, the community input we provided, or our hopes for a genuinely transparent, citizen-led process.
We will continue to support legislation to enact an independent citizen redistricting process. In the state that created modern American democracy, we ask that such legislation finally be given a vote.