This article is part of a yearlong reporting project focused on redistricting and gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. It is made possible by the support of Spotlight PA members and Votebeat, a project focused on election integrity and voting access.
HARRISBURG — Republicans on a key state House panel did not vote Monday on a proposed congressional map that experts say clearly benefits their own party, instead opting to advance empty placeholder legislation.
Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), chair of the House State Government Committee and a supporter of the proposed map, did not explain why it wasn’t included in the bill.
“We want to make sure we have vehicles in place to timely respond to either any issues the governor has or the Supreme Court has, if this, in fact, does go to the courts,” Grove said during the committee meeting. “Ultimately, I think we can get to a negotiated product. Obviously the governor has a duty to weigh in on these.”
But the ranking Democrat on the panel said the move was an all-too-familiar “shell game” to push through the map Republicans ultimately want at the end of the process.
“It is a blank piece of paper with no congressional seats on it,” state Rep. Scott Conklin (D., Centre) said, “just a vessel so they can do what they’ve always done: decide later on where they would like to see the lines drawn.”
Grove previously said House Republicans selected the proposed map from among 19 citizen submissions. It was drawn by former GOP Lehigh County Commissioner Amanda Holt, who first gained public acclaim as a redistricting activist a decade ago when she challenged the state’s legislative maps in court.
Fair district advocates previously told Spotlight PA that Holt’s map is a good starting point that could be improved to better reflect the partisan makeup of the state.
While the map meets most of the minimum baseline requirements outlined in the 2018 League of Women Voters Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case, advocates still criticize its somewhat sprawling districts and partisan bias towards Republicans. Although the state’s major party registrations are split roughly 50-50, the proposed map gives Republicans an advantage.
Monday’s vote was scheduled just six days after the panel released the map to the public.
The placeholder legislation passed the panel along party lines.
Pennsylvania’s congressional map approval process follows that for normal legislation: It is voted on by the House and Senate, and then sent to the governor.
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