Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the current U.S. congressional map as unconstitutional and required the Pennsylvania legislature to draw a new one by Friday, with Gov. Tom Wolf having to approve the map by Feb. 16. Otherwise, the court will draw it.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman often says that drawing political maps should be a legislative responsibility, not an issue for the courts or an independent citizens’ commission. Though the legislature gets the first crack at redrawing the map, he claims that, without an official court opinion, the legislature is stuck waiting: “we could be just drawing another map that they think is unconstitutional.”
I have some suggestions for how they can forge ahead.
First, they should look on the bright side. They could hardly do worse! According to professor Wesley Pegden, an expert witness in the lawsuit, the 2011 map “is so carefully crafted that … every small thing you do makes the current map fairer.”
But how fair should they make the new map? They could borrow examples from Pegden and professor Jowei Chen, another expert witness. These scholars generated hundreds of fairer maps, proving our current map an extreme outlier. Corman and his friends should take heart. All they have to do is pick the fairest one!
But how will they know what’s “constitutional”? They could read the Pennsylvania Constitution, which stipulates that districts should be compact, contiguous, and, where possible, respect geopolitical boundaries — criteria the 2011 map egregiously violates.
Or is fairness itself the sticking point?
Jessica O’Hara, State College