Judge recommends Congressional map favored by GOP lawmakers

Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court will consider a new map of congressional districts recommended Monday by a lower court judge who chose a proposal favored by key Republican lawmakers but opposed by Democrats in the field state. presidential battle.

The map recommended by Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, a Republican, was from a group of more than a dozen people submitted to the court as part of a city’s demographic adjustment exercise. decade.

He sides with Republicans on key areas of partisan disagreement.

The map passed the Republican-controlled Legislature last month without the support of a single Democratic lawmaker. Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed it.

Democrats see it as a partisan map, yielding 10 Republican seats, and possibly as many as 12, in a state where Pennsylvania’s delegation is currently split evenly, nine Democrats and nine Republicans, and registered Democrats are more outnumbered Republicans from 4 million to 3.4 million.

A political scientist who testified on the plan for Republicans projected there were nine Democratic-leaning districts and eight GOP-leaning districts based on the 2012-20 statewide election results.

An analysis by FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on the analysis of opinion polls, politics and other topics, projects that the map will retain nine Republican-leaning seats, even if population gains over the past decade have largely been in Democratic-majority counties.

The map cuts Democratic-leaning districts from six to five and retains three draw districts as the state grapples with losing one seat due to relatively stagnant population growth.

The issue of redrawing the state’s congressional districts was taken to court after Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature standoff.

McCullough – who unsuccessfully ran for state Supreme Court last year, bragging on her website as ‘the ONLY judge in America to order that the results of the 2020 presidential election be uncertified and “the only justice nominee for the PA Supreme Court to be congratulated by President Trump” – got the case first.

She held three days of hearings on proposals and was given a choice of cards submitted by Republican lawmakers, Wolf, Democratic lawmakers, supporters of both sides and good government groups.

His selection is strictly a recommendation on which the state Supreme Court — with a 5-2 Democratic majority — will make the final decision. In 1992, when a similar process took place over six weeks, the High Court followed the recommendation of the lower court judge.

The High Court will hold hearings on February 18.

McCullough, in her 222-page report, wrote that she chose the Republican lawmakers’ proposal because it lacked “any known legal or constitutional objections” from Wolf and suggested that it deserved additional weight because it had was passed by the Legislative Assembly.

It “functionally equates to the voice and will of the people,” she wrote.

In his veto message last month, Wolf argued that the map proposed by Republicans “fails the test of fundamental fairness.”

Congress’ precinct shuffling process runs up against the three-week period beginning Feb. 15, during which candidates can circulate petitions to obtain ballots for the May 17 primary election.

To deal with this, McCullough suggested keeping the primary date intact, but delaying the petition period by two weeks, until March 1, and compressing it to two weeks until March 15.

McCullough’s chosen map creates seven districts with strong Republican registration advantages. Five seats would have a strong Democratic registration advantage.

Registration is closer in five seats, but the Republican map generally gives these rotating districts a higher percentage of Republican voters than the current boundaries.

Three of these solidly Republican districts divide the growing Harrisburg area, dividing its Democratic voters and making the area less competitive for a Democrat.

He keeps Pittsburgh in one district, rallying its Democratic voters, but bolsters Republican registration in a suburban Pittsburgh district now represented by three-term Democrat Conor Lamb, who is running for the U.S. Senate instead.

It ensures that no Republican incumbent is in the same district as another GOP incumbent.

But it gives Republicans a game they wanted in northeast Pennsylvania, pitting second-term Republican Dan Meuser against fifth-term Democrat Matt Cartwright in a Republican-leaning district.

Meanwhile, the district of Cartwright, as well as seats held by Democrats based in Chester County and Allentown, would get a higher percentage of Republican voters. The change would shift the Chester County-based district from a Democratic leaning to a toss-up. A swing seat held by Bucks County-based Republicans would remain a draw.

On some maps, Democrats had proposed dividing Pittsburgh to create two Democratic-leaning seats and keeping bluer areas around Harrisburg in a district with York or Lancaster to keep registration closer.

Additionally, the Democrats’ maps had preferred to pair two Republican incumbents in a single district, arguing that the areas represented by Republicans were primarily where population growth was stagnating.

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.