State rejects unlawful redistricting plan
The 2011 redistricting plan would favor Republican incumbents in state legislature
February 6, 2012, 11:41 pm·
The State Supreme Court recently released the rationale behind their decision last Friday to remand a state-redistricting plan back to the 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
In a four to three decision, in which a Republican Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille voted with the Democrats, the Court struck down a plan on Jan. 25 that divided town and municipalities into different districts in a way that would favor Republican incumbents in the state legislature.
The Court found the plan “contrary to the law” because it “violates the constitutional command to respect the integrity of political subdivisions.” According to the Court, the plan “contains numerous political subdivision splits that are not absolutely necessary.”
Former Penn Political Science professor Jack Nagel said “a key point in the Court’s decision” was that two other plans had been made — but not submitted — that subdivided fewer regions and had better population proportions than the Commission’s plan. These other plans served as evidence that a better alternative existed.
The Commission did not submit the plan with an appropriate amount of time left before the state primaries, which take place in April.
Nagel believes the majority was “trying to say you won’t get away with sandbagging us” with a last minute proposal, as they believe the Commission was hoping that the Court would feel there was not enough time before the primaries to reject the redistricting plan.
Nagel added the majority’s opinion was partially “putting the blame on the Commission” for the untimeliness of this matter.
Because the Court remanded the decision, the 2001 districting plan will be used for the upcoming elections until another plan is approved. This caused some candidates who believed the 2011 plan would be passed to drop out of the race because under the 2001 plan, they don’t live in the districts they were running in. State law requires that candidates live in the districts they represent.
A new plan has yet to be submitted.