As redistricting cases move forward, Lt. Gov. Stack enters fray

As redistricting cases move forward, Lt. Gov. Stack enters fray

Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, January 10, 2018/Categories: News and Views

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack entered the fray over Pennsylvania’s currently litigated 2011 congressional map Wednesday by announcing he has filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff’s in the state court redistricting suit attempting to have the map declared unconstitutional under state law.

 

“The Republican leadership created this map without any public input and the results have been a disaster,” Stack said Wednesday. “The current map has contorted districts and fails to keep communities of interest in a single district.”

 

As such, Stack presented the “Stack Illustrative Congressional Map” that he says breaks down Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts in a way that keeps communities of interest together and ensures the districts are “compact and contiguous.”

 

The map, also known as “Chen Figure 1” in the ongoing state court litigation as an exhibit already in evidence during the proceedings, is also said to result in Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts being split evenly among Republican and Democratic congressmen.

 

“Our voters deserve better, our citizens deserve to have their collective voices heard, and for that reason, I’m standing here today to urge the Supreme Court to find the 2011 map unconstitutional and to move quickly to develop a map like the Stack map shown to the court,” he said.

 

Current law requires Pennsylvania’s congressional map to be developed akin to legislation, passing both chambers of the General Assembly and approved by the governor.

 

According to House Republican spokesperson Steve Miskin—House Republican leadership is currently party to both state and federal lawsuits challenging the 2011 map—the arguments and maps proffered by Stack and the plaintiffs in the ongoing litigation do little to take into account the realities of the current process.

 

“The fact is you need to have 102, 26, and 1 and the maps that came out got those votes,” he said. “In fact, it was a bipartisan vote in the House with 130-some-odd votes in the House and it had the support of Democratic congressman.”

 

He also questioned the motives behind ongoing litigation and attempts to have the 2011 map declared unconstitutional, putting the current 13-5 split in Congress not at the feet of partisan drawn maps but rather the quality of candidates and issues.

 

“I believe Republicans had better candidates and better issues and actually ran campaigns,” he said.

 

Stack countered, however, arguing that the current process is not working.

 

“Any process that essentially denies equal power in voting is not a process which is American,” he said. “It’s a highly important constitutional right.”

 

He also endorsed changing the map drawing process to have congressional maps drawn either by courts or a citizens’ commission.

 

Stack’s move comes on the heels in a number of recent developments concerning ongoing redistricting litigation in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

 

On Wednesday, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a split opinion in Agre v. Wolf, the federal challenge to Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional map, finding in favor of the current version of the maps and noting that at least some of the issues are non-justiciable and courts should not take a primary role in redistricting.

 

That case was litigated in front a three judge panel that included two U.S. circuit court judges.

 

As the state case rolls on, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to hold arguments in the case next Wednesday and Senate Republican leaders Tuesday called on the plaintiffs in that case to withdraw their lawsuit in the face of mounting legal costs and a recommendation from the Commonwealth Court that the maps are constitutional.

 

On respondent briefs were due in the case on Wednesday and plaintiff appellants have requested that, if the map is thrown out, then the General Assembly and governor be given two weeks to draw non-partisan maps. Should they not meet that deadline, then the court or a specially appointed master should develop an appropriate map.

 

Elsewhere, however, a federal appeals court held on Tuesday that North Carolina’s congressional map is unconstitutionally gerrymandered and required state lawmakers to draft new maps that meet constitutional muster.

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