Washington reacts to PA congressional redistricting case

Published: Feb. 14, 2018 at 4:35 PM EST
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Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) said he’s worried what a new district map would mean for his constituents.

“Does that mean that Congressman Kelly is not going to be able to handle the things we’re already working on?" he asked.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in January that the state’s congressional maps must be redrawn by the May primary. That poses a challenge for any Pennsylvania House member running in 2018.

Kelly said, "we have a primary season coming up, we have to get petitions signed, I have to know exactly what district we’re going to be if we’re going to be in the same district?"

This all started after the State Supreme Court found the 2011 map to be drawn in such a way that it benefited Republicans over Democrats. Kelly said he doesn’t see it. But Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) agrees with the state Supreme Court. He said in a statement, "the decision gives Pennsylvania an opportunity to have fair congressional districts, instead of a rigged system.”

Some people we spoke with on Capitol Hill said this case could make it all the way to the Supreme Court if the tension continues. But experts in Washington said there are other options to consider.

“If we really believe in fair representation we need to start thinking beyond the use of single winner districts," Drew Penrose, Law and Policy Director at the non-partisan electoral reform group Fair Vote, said.

Penrose said since the majority of Pennsylvania’s Democrats live in one general area, like for example in Philadelphia, the re-districting is still going to have a Republican bias.

He said alternatives like ranked choice voting, selecting multiple candidates in order of preference, could remove that bias.

“The people in control of the representation are the voters themselves not the elites who get to decide 'oh you’re going to be in district A and you’re going to be in District B' and we’re going to choose your representatives for you," he added.

Right now there is federal law that stops Pennsylvania from using multiple winner districts. But a bill currently in Congress would require all states to use this method. So far that bill is in just the beginning phase.

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