Local
2:36 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

New Legislative Districts Appealed

Wednesday was the deadline in Pennsylvania to file appeals over new state legislative districts announced last month. So far at least 11 appeals have been processed, many of them objecting to the way new boundaries split towns and counties into separate districts.

That sort of configuration is supposed to be prohibited by the state constitution except under extraordinary circumstances. But Michael Churchill, a lawyer at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, said there is no reason for those communities to be divided except for the sake of political expediency.

"They were trying to preserve incumbent seats so they would still be residents in the districts without changing boundaries," Churchill said. "They were trying to make sure that they didn't change the boundaries so much that many incumbents would lose their seats."

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny County) said his constituents have a problem with the fact that redistricting has sent one of their state senate seats to northeastern Pennsylvania.

"The overall thing, though, is that the partisan nature of this redistricting plan played out," Costa said. "When you look at 19 competitive districts across this commonwealth, 14 percent of them resulted in an improvement to the Republican-performing districts in that process."

Lawyers representing local government leaders from Chester County and voters in several southeastern counties are fighting the current redistricting plan, but called the process an uphill battle.