PA Supreme Court Overturns Congressional Map

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital

 

This morning, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s Congressional District map as being unconstitutional and ordered that a new plan for the 18 Congressional districts in the state is to be redrawn.  Five of the seven Supreme Court Justices ruled that the maps were unconstitutional.  And four of the seven Justices ordered that the maps be redrawn in the next few weeks.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has until February 9 – 18 days from now to redraw the lines. Governor Tom Wolf has until February 15 to sign off on this plan.  If the legislature fails to meet its deadline and/or Governor Wolf fails to sign off on the plan submitted to him, the PA Supreme Court will create their own map based on information received by the lower, Commonwealth Court.

The state is then expected to publish the new districts by February 19 and, if necessary, readjust the election petitioning process to ensure that the May 15, 2018, primary takes place as scheduled.

This decision is based on Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  In its order, the state Supreme Court used words directly from our state constitution describing why creating districts based on partisan association is unconstitutional.

I located the order from the Supreme Court.  The case is known as League of Women Voters et al. v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.  Here’s the statement that says the current map is unconstitutional.

First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act
of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.
Accordingly, its further use in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States
House of Representatives, commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary, is
hereby enjoined.

And using text from the state Constitution, the Court mandates that the new map be redrawn to the following specifications:

Fourth, to comply with this Order, any congressional districting plan shall consist
of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly
equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city,
incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure
equality of population.

If the PA Senate GOP appeal to the US Supreme Court to stay this decision is turned down, all 18 districts will be redrawn. This includes the highly gerrymandered PA’s 7th Congressional District (aka “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck”) in the southeast and the 12th Congressional District (aka “The Hammer”) in the southwest.

Here’s what the current Congressional District map looks like with 13 Republicans and 5 Democratic US House Representatives.  There are many possibilities as to what the new, non-partisan districts might look like.  Stephen Wolf has presented one possible non-partisan alternative that could result in as many as 11 or as few as 6 Democratic Congressional seats.  The revised map will almost certainly differ from this initial idea designed by a single, non-elected person. But it does show that it is possible to create a non-partisan district map.

 

Pennsylvania_Comparison_2018 potential non-partisan districts

Current Gerrymandered and Hypothetical Nonpartisan Pennsylvania Congressional Districts. Attribution: Stephen Wolf https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/22/1733876/-Huge-Court-strikes-down-Pennsylvania-s-GOP-congressional-gerrymander-and-orders-a-new-map-for-2018

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania for taking the lead in this case.

 

Joanne Tosti-Vasey for Bellefonte Borough Council

On May 19, 2015, I will be standing outside my precinct polling place asking my constituents to vote for me in the 2015 Primary for a seat on the Bellefonte Borough Council representing the 3rd (or West) Ward.  There are three seats for this section of town with one seat being elected for a four-year term starting on January 1, 2016.

There are two people — myself and a 32-year incumbent — running on the Democratic ticket. There is no one running on the Republican ticket. So I am running both a regular primary campaign on the Democratic side and a write-in campaign on the Republican ballot.

Volunteers on both sides of the aisle are writing letters, door knocking, and making calls on my behalf.  Click here, here, here, here, here, and here for links to the letters to the editor that have so far appeared in the Centre Daily Times endorsing my campaign for Bellefonte Borough Council. Thanks everyone.

As part of the campaign, I was interviewed by C-NET, our local cable access TV network on April 25.  The following clips are from that interview broken down by question.

Question 1: Why are you running?

Question 2: How should Bellefonte Council deal with developing a town budget?

Question 3: How do you see Bellefonte dealing with affordable housing?

Question 4: Thoughts on the development of the Garman and Cadillac sites

FYI, the Garman and Cadillac buildings, aka “The Mews,” is the downtown development project.  This project will renovate the Cadillac Building (designed by Anna Wagner Keichline, Pennsylvania’s first female registered architect) and build a new building on the former site of the Garman Opera House and the Hotel DoDe into a set affordable housing units. There has been a lot of controversy about this project including how decisions were made in selecting the developer and how the community and historic preservation were ignored during the process.

 

Question 5: Courthouse v. Town

With legal issues surrounding the Courthouse, how do you raise the town above that? How do you let people know that Bellefonte is more than just the Courthouse and the people involved in it?

 

Question 6: Should Bellefonte become part of the Centre Region?

Centre County is divided into seven planning regions. The Centre Region is where State College and the Pennsylvania State University are located.  It is the population center of the county.  Bellefonte is part of the Nittany Valley Region.

Question 7: Economic Development of Bellefonte’s Downtown and the Waterfront Districts

Q8: Tell us about yourself

In answer to this question I talked about my community organizing and community policy background and how that qualifies me to serve as a member of the Bellefonte Borough Council.

AND NOW: Get Out and Vote!

So… if you live in Pennsylvania, remember to vote on Tuesday, May 19. Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

If you live in Bellefonte’s 3rd (West) Ward, please vote for Joanne Tosti-Vasey.  If you are a Democratic, I am number 2 on the Borough Council section of the Democratic ballot; please fill in the bubble next to my name on your ballot. If you are a Republican, please write in “Joanne Tosti-Vasey” in the Borough Council section of your ballot.

Help make a difference in your community. VOTE!