Panel Gets Feedback On Redistricting Redux

Mary Wilson & Essential Public Radio Staff May 3, 2012

The panel that failed in its first effort to redraw state House and Senate district lines began taking public comment Wednesday on its latest preliminary plan.

At the first of two hearings yesterday, reapportionment commisioners heard testimony from high-profile speakers, including state Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson Co.). The Senate President Pro Tempore objected to the panel's decision to move the district of a retiring state senator rather than one that had lost more population.

“Elevating the consideration of retirements is nothing more than a back-door way of protecting incumbency,” Scarnati said, “pure and simple.”

Amanda Holt, the Lehigh County resident who successfully challenged the last redistricting plan, said the latest effort violates the state constitution and laws designed to ensure equitable representation of Pennsylvania’s population.

“This revised plan, rather than first serving the citizens and upholding our constitution, needlessly continues to sacrifice our constitution on the altar of incumbent preferences,” Holt said.

A second public hearing on the new district maps is scheduled for next week.

The first redistricting plan was thrown out by the state Supreme Court for splitting too many counties and municipalities into separate districts, and for violating the constitutional requirement that districts be compact and contiguous.