Pennsylvania court throws out congressional boundaries

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state's widely criticized congressional map Monday, granting a major victory to Democrats who alleged the 18 districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. (Jan. 23)

A state lawmaker from the Valley said the redrawing of Pennsylvania's congressional districts should result in clear, concise election maps generated with no cost to the taxpayers.

Pennsylvania State House Rep. Lynda Culver, R-108, Sunbury, emerged from a party caucus, and said she hadn't yet read the Supreme Court decision that blocked a Republican appeal to block the redrawing.

"But we are aware of the ruling," she said. "This is a situation no one expected. It remains to be seen what will happen, but I want to make sure that when the lines are redrawn, citizens understand who represents them and who they are voting for. The redistricting shouldn't have to cost taxpayer money."

Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, Kreamer, said, "The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is not mine. It was filed by Speaker [Mike] Turzai and president pro tempore [Joe] Scarnati. As Paul Harvey used to say, here is the rest of the story."

The 2011 congressional district map, Keller explained, "contained in SB 1249 needed to receive a 102-vote constitutional majority in the state House to proceed to the governor and become law. In 2011, this bill received 100 Republican votes and 36 Democratic votes.

"If the maps are so unfavorable," Keller said, "why did 40 percent of the Democrats in the state House, many elected by the plaintiffs in the case, support it?"

Attempts to reach State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-107, Elysburg, for comment were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the redrawing of district lines will be of immense interest to Bob Garrett, president and CEO, Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber's current position on gerrymandering, he said on Monday, "was developed around the 2020 census. We didn't have a crystal ball. We had no idea this lawsuit was coming along."

But the chamber's position is relevant no matter what happens with redistricting, Garrett said.

"The chamber encourages those who will draw up and propose new congressional districts to build upon and not harm the natural occuring cohesiveness of our rural area," he said. 

"If I had a magic wand and I could wave it," Garrett said, "I would say 'wouldn't it be neat if they could come up with a congressional district that had the Greater Susquehanna Valley, and kept us at the core of the congressional seat?' I don't have that magic wand and the rural nature of our valley is that we are always going to be some part of a far flung congressional district."

What the chamber hopes for "is that we keep as much cohesiveness as we possibly can in our four county area," he said. "The problem we have with this redrawn map is that there is not going to be any hearing. There is no way we are going to have any input into these maps. We can only hope now that the legislative leaders and consultants, the state supreme court and the governor come up with something that makes sense for the greater Susquehanna Valley." 

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