Sunday, April 11, 2010

the uber-pathology lurking in the Zappala/Orie imbroglio

AP has a piece looking at the general topic of how the census will impact political redistricting in Pennsylvania.  A few years ago I got more specific with the numbers on how redistricting will impact the state house including projected changes by county across the commonwealth.  See bottom of page 1 and map on page 7 of this. I'll put the summary map of those results below, but basically it's documenting the obvious:  Allegheny County is going to lose on the order of 2 whole state house seats.  Butler and Washington will gain a fractional seat each and most every other county in the region will lose a fraction of a seat. Seats are going to be gained in the SE part of the state except for Philadelphia proper and the NE part of the state.

But there is something really big looming out there.  Talking with a friend recently we realized the uber-pathology of what could potentially happen in Pennsylvania's redistricting process.  The redistricting process within the state involves the State Supreme Court in many ways.  The initial way is it could get involved is in how the 5-person Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission gets picked.  4 folks are chosen respectively from the legislative caucuses in the state house and state senate.  Those 4 then must choose the 5th member which would presumably be a deciding vote in many cases.   If they can't choose a 5th person then the state supreme court is tasked with appointing the 5th, and pivotal, member.

Think about it...   for the record this isn't a prediction in any way shape or form... but at least consider the possibility that any of this leads to State Supreme Court justice Joan Orie Melvin needing to step aside in any form then what do you have? Politically it would be a 4-4 evenly divided court.  What then?   Oh, and how do empty seats on the supreme court get filled?  Isn't it a gubenatorial appointment also needing state senate approval.  So with a D governor and a R controlled senate where does that go?

There are other roles the supreme court could play beyond that. The court would hear any appeals of the plan and if the legislature does not pass a redistricting plan then the supreme court again should step in to provide it's own plan.  All things that could become quite a scene if the court itself was deadlocked.  It's not like there is a default path that would result from split decisions in most cases.  The court's role in most of this would require majority decisions to effect anything.  Lacking that who knows what could happen... or not happen I suppose. Remember the US Constitution requires redistricting. 

Anyway, this is a map I did a few years ago of projected changes in state general assembly representation by county if census population trends were extrapolated through to 2010. 

Source:  PEQ, June 2006


Blogger Grimace said...

Whoever saw population growth occurring in NEPA?

That is a rough commute to NYC.

Sunday, April 11, 2010 10:39:00 AM  

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