Top Republicans in Pa. House, Senate submit congressional map to Gov. Wolf
President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said the new map “complies fully” with the Supreme Court’s Jan. 22 rewrite order . The GOP leaders released it Friday night.
HARRISBURG — Facing a deadline imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the legislature's two top Republicans late Friday submitted to the governor a new statewide map of congressional districts to replace boundaries the justices ruled were unconstitutional.
If approved, the map submitted by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) would result in significant changes for the areas surrounding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The proposed map "complies fully" with the court's order, the pair said in a joint statement.
But within roughly an hour of its public release, top Democrats in the House and the Senate were urging Democratic Gov. Wolf to "reject it outright."
"The Republican leadership in both chambers blocked this process, refused to negotiate, and have now submitted a map directly to your office that we have not even seen," Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) said in a joint letter to the governor released Friday evening.
A spokesman for Wolf said Friday that while the map does not appear to comply with the letter of the court's order, the governor would be willing to review it.
The map submitted by GOP lawmakers to Gov. Wolf.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling last month declared the state's congressional map had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans, who control 13 of 18 U.S. House seats in Pennsylvania despite winning votes from roughly half the electorate.
The justices, a majority of whom are Democrats, ordered that a new map be put in place in time for this year's elections and gave the General Assembly until Friday to send a proposed map to the governor. Wolf has until Thursday to approve a map and, if he chooses, submit it to the court for consideration.
Any redrawing could have significant implications not only for the state but for national politics as well, as Democrats hope to chip away at a Republican majority in the House.
In normal circumstances, maps would go to the governor only after they have been approved in votes by the Pennsylvania House and Senate. By late this week, it was no longer possible for the full, Republican-controlled legislature to pass a new map in time.
It's unclear whether the court would consider its order fulfilled if just Scarnati and Turzai submit a map without a vote.
"While the court's order did not appear to allow for two individuals to draw a map on behalf of the entire General Assembly, Gov. Wolf will review Speaker Turzai and President Scarnati's submission in consultation with the experts retained by the administration to determine his next course of action," Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said in a statement late Friday.
The Wolf administration has enlisted Moon Duchin, a professor of mathematics at Tufts University, to help evaluate any potential maps for fairness. Duchin, speaking Friday before students at the University of Pennsylvania's law school, said she felt her role was to provide guidance on how "neutral" any presented map is.
The map released Friday provided broad outlines of districts. More detailed information that would allow for a further analysis broken down by municipalities or wards could be released in coming days.
Under the proposed map, the infamous Seventh District represented by Republican Pat Meehan would no longer look like "Goofy kicking Donald."
Under the new maps, the city of Philadelphia largely remains split among three congressional districts, similar to how it is under the previous maps. Mapmakers said Friday that they divided it that way to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and the requirement that the minority vote not be diluted by unnecessary splits.
The First Congressional District, now represented by Democratic Rep. Bob Brady, would continue to cover portions of Philadelphia and Delaware County, and the Second District, represented by Rep. Dwight Evans, would be concentrated within the city limits.
The city's Northeast section would largely remain in Rep. Brendan Boyle's district.
In Western Pennsylvania, the 14th District surrounding Pittsburgh and represented by Democrat Mike Doyle would look similar to its current form. But many of the districts surrounding it would shift more drastically.
The 12th District currently represented by Republican Keith Rothfus would include parts of Lawrence and Beaver Counties, as well as parts of Washington and Allegheny Counties. It would no longer stretch east into Somerset and Westmoreland Counties.
The 18th District, left vacant after the departure of Republican Tim Murphy, would include parts of Greene, Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Fayette Counties. Voters in that district will vote next month in a special election to replace Murphy. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of Murphy's term.
Further north, Erie would no longer be split.
Drew Crompton, chief of staff to Scarnati and the Senate's top attorney, said Friday night that the teams working with the Republican leaders used census data and the court's guidance to draw their map, putting little emphasis on how voters in the districts had cast their ballots in the past.
"If you ask me the R and D split of that map, I have no idea what it was," he said, referring to Republicans and Democrats.
Angela Couloumbis of the Harrisburg Bureau and staff writer Maddie Hanna contributed to this article.