Supremes uphold state maps

Published by Tim McNulty on .

38th Senate district

The state Supreme Court today upheld the state's new legislative lines, close to a year after the (new version) of the state maps were approved.

The GOP-controlled maps send a South Hills House seat occupied by Democrat Erin Molchany of Mount Washington east to the Lehigh Valley and former Republican Sen. Jane Orie's North Hills seat eastward as well, but makes the current seat held by Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, much more Republican and possibly a pickup by Orie's replacement Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler.

Above is a look from Chris Briem at just how Republican the Ferlo/Vulakovich seat will be.

UPDATE: Sen. Ferlo sends along the following statement:

"Is est quis is est (It is what it is). Contrary to its initial opinion the Supreme Court, after jumping through legal hurdles to overcome their Holt ruling, decided that it is constitutional for the Legislature to gerrymander. However, it's a bit early to begin writing my political obituary. I will continue to faithfully represent the 38th Senatorial District with same energy and with sense of responsibility and further plan to be around for a while."

UPDATE 2 from attorney Chuck Pascal, one of the attorneys who challenged the maps:

We are disappointed that this map, in particular, splits municipalities for no logical reason, and that, in particular, wards within the City of Pittsburgh are split excessively. We are particularly disappointed that the 19th Ward is split into four State House districts and has placed Representatives Erin Molchany and Harry Readshaw into the same legislative district.

On the Senate side, we continue to believe that it is a disgraceful example of political gerrymandering to place the 11th and 12th Wards into a district otherwise consisting of the Republican North Hills, depriving the majority African-American residents of these wards of representation which is consistent with their preference, and which divides the community of interest of African-American residents of the City of Pittsburgh. This gerrymander places Senator Jim Ferlo, of the 11th Ward, in an overwhelmingly Republican district currently represented by Senator Randy Vulakovich.

UPDATE 3: From Molchany:

"I'm very disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the 2012 Redistricting Maps. I stood up during reapportionment hearings to support keeping the 22nd district in South Pittsburgh and our municipalities and neighborhoods together. Yet, these new maps divide communities like Beechview, Brookline, and Mt. Washington, and separate neighbors in Whitehall. In the South Hills of Pittsburgh, these maps are neither compact nor contiguous. However, the Supreme Court has reached their decision, and we must move on.

"For the past five months, I have worked hard serving the people of my district and the state of Pennsylvania. I will continue to serve today, tomorrow, and for the duration of my term with the same high level of integrity and excellence. This new development has no bearing on my dedication to the 22nd district. I remain committed to public service, and I look forward to continue working with colleagues and serving the commonwealth for the foreseeable future."

There is nothing in the state Constitution keeping the remapping process from being political, the unanimous decision states. (Five justices joined Chief Justice Ronald Castille's opinion and Justice Thomas Saylor concurred. Former Justice Joan Orie Melvin did not participate.)

"The political winds, and voter preferences, may shift over time. Citizens within a political subdivision may want a realistic chance to elect someone other than their incumbent. Assume a redistricting map in place which one party views as unfairly balanced (politically) to solidify or ensure the power of another party. In the next redistricting process, the part y that considers itself aggrieved by the old map can seek to rework the map to accomplish what it views as a restoration of political balance – or even to tilt the balance more heavily in its favor," the opinion says.

New maps were required after the 2010 U.S. Census. The Supreme Court rejected the first version in January 2012 and the state's 5-member reapportionment panel (composed of the four caucus leaders and a chairman) approved a new version in June 2012. They need to be in place by next year's legislative elections.

The 59-page decision is here. State Senate maps are here and House maps here.

Graphic: Chris Briem/Null Space

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