Governor Tom Wolf vetoes Pennsylvania congressional map sent to him by Republicans

This article is part of a year-long reporting project focusing on redistricting and gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. It is made possible thanks to the support of PA projector members and Votebeat, a project focused on election integrity and access to the vote.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a Congressional map sent to him by Republican lawmakers, leaving the monumental task of choosing Pennsylvania’s next district lines to state courts.

In a veto message released Wednesday night, Wolf said the card failed “the test of fundamental fairness.”

“The people of Pennsylvania deserve a fair electoral map that promotes accountability and responsiveness to voters and is drawn in an open and honest manner,” he said. “The public deserves a fair map completed in a bipartisan way; the General Assembly failed to adopt one.

The map sent to Wolf by the GOP-controlled legislature was originally drawn by Amanda Holt — a famous redistricting reform advocate and former Lehigh County commissioner — and championed by state Rep. Seth Grove (R. , York). It was changed by the Grove Legislative Committee after GOP members on the panel criticized the way their counties were divided.

He improves on four fairness criteria outlined in a previous state Supreme Court decision, but nonpartisan analysis shows he has a partisan bias in favor of Republicans.

“This is truly a historic day in our state. Never in the history of our state has a map of Congress been drawn by a resident and then approved by the Legislature,” Grove said after the map was released. sent to the governor earlier this week “It is now up to Wolf to follow the will of the people and sign this bill into law.”

Every 10 years, Pennsylvania redraws its congressional boundaries to account for changing demographics. Due to the state’s sluggish growth, Pennsylvania will lose one of its 18 seats in Washington.

With Wolf’s veto, the state justice system is now likely to have the final say.

In response to lawsuits filed by two groups of Pennsylvanians in December, the Commonwealth Court asked citizen petitioners, Wolf, leading Republicans and Democrats and advocates of good government to submit their own map proposals.

The court will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to consider 14 different proposals. He could issue a decision as early as January 30 – the original deadline he set for Wolf and the legislature to reach an agreement – ​​but redistricting watchers expect the decision to be appealed to the Court Supreme of the State.

In recent days, state Senate lawmakers said they were still working on a compromise map that the four caucuses and Wolf could agree to. But on Monday, House Majority Leader Sen. Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) told reporters the parties were at an impasse.

“And that just comes down to: we can’t agree,” she said. “The governor is going to veto anything that’s not what he produced, and the courts will end up drawing maps.”

House Republicans had criticized Wolf for not negotiating a map with lawmakers, which the Democratic governor said in December was not his role. He surprised many by publishing his own proposal on January 15.

Wolf had previously said he would veto the map put forward by Republicans if it was not changed, criticizing its lack of partisan fairness and the way it divides communities of interest – defined as a geographic area or a group of people sharing common values.

Careful observers of the redistricting process had predicted that the congressional map would likely be decided by the state Supreme Court, which currently has a 5-2 Democratic majority.

In 2018, the High Court threw out Congress’ card from the previous round after finding it was a partisan gerrymander that violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. After the General Assembly and Wolf could not reach an agreement, the court adopted a map drawn by a Stanford professor.

Currently, the state’s 18-member delegation is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

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