Harrisburg – June 13, 2018 – Senate Republicans, without a public hearing and zero citizen input, added a radical court gerrymandering plan to a bipartisan proposal to reform the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn, state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today.
“A sincere and sustained effort by good government groups to better the process of redrawing congressional and legislative lines was soiled by the partisan Republican plan to gerrymander the selection of appellate court judges,” Brewster said. “The Republicans are clearly moved to retaliate against courts after they stepped in to redraw congressional district lines.”
Brewster, and a host of Senate Democrats, support altering the current redistricting process – a five-member commission staffed with four legislative leaders – that produced a heavy Republican gerrymander of legislative districts during the last reapportionment.
Brewster backed a plan (contained in Senate Bill 22) that would establish an independent citizens’ commission to redraw congressional and legislative maps. The 11-member bipartisan panel would hold extensive public hearings while preserving court appeals for those who want to challenge the map’s constitutionality.
Republican senators inserted a court gerrymandering plan during Senate floor action yesterday. The Republican proposal would select appellate judges by district – with the likely net effect of significantly reducing the number of Democrats on the courts. The change was made without public hearings or input.
“Clearly, change is necessary to deal with Republican gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts,” Brewster said. “However, the Republican plan to gerrymander the selection of appellate courts judges is simply wrong and its being done to retaliate against the courts because they redrew congressional lines.”
During the last reapportionment, Republicans initially attempted to move Brewster’s district to the Poconos. That plan was rejected by the state Supreme Court because it was skewed, split too many jurisdictions and failed tests for compactness and contiguity.
“I know personally the pains of gerrymandering and its potential impact on the citizens of our region,” Brewster said. “We must rebalance reapportionment and eliminate legislative gerrymandering without creating a whole new layer of political hijinks as it applies to the courts.”
Brewster said he voted against Senate Bill 22 due to the inclusion of the Senate Republican plan to gerrymander the courts.