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Wolf administration rejects GOP congressional map proposal

In this Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his office in Harrisburg, Pa.
Matt Rourke
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf has rejected a Republican-drawn congressional map designed to replace the one the state Supreme Court declared unconstitutional late last month. 

The Democratic administration says the map is still too partisan--though House and Senate Republicans maintain it follows the court's order exactly. 

The Wolf administration hired Tufts University Professor Moon Duchin to analyze the GOP map. In a statement, she said her statistical and mathematical analysis showed the proposal is "an extreme outlier," when compared to other plans within the court's constraints, "exhibiting a decidedly partisan skew that cannot be explained by Pennsylvania's political geography or the application of traditional districting principles."

That partisan tilt in favor of Republicans, she said, has only a 0.1 percent chance of coming about by chance. 

When they submitted the map, its GOP authors were adamant they hadn't even taken partisanship into consideration.

"If you ask me the R and D split of that map, I have no idea what it was," top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said. 

House and Senate leaders submitted that map without a vote from the legislature--a cut corner they said was necessitated by the fact the Supreme Court only issued its full ruling three days before the map was due to the governor. 

They say they met all the court's specifications, though--namely, that the congressional districts be "composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population."

Wolf spokesman JJ Abbott acknowledged those specifications were met. But he said the Republican map fails to meet a different standard set by the opinion the court released last week. 

"The opinion makes clear that the standard by which [the current map] was deemed unconstitutional was that it gave distinct advantages for a particular political party, and we believe the map that was submitted to the governor contains similar, if not the same advantages in a partisan direction, and using the same tactics as the current map."

Republican leaders have not yet returned requests for comment.

A spokesman for Wolf says the governor is still willing to work with the legislature on a compromise map, and hasn't decided if he'll submit his own, independent one to the court. 

Wolf's final deadline is February 15. 

Katie Meyer covers politics, policy, power, and elections at every level of government, with the goal of showing how it all affects people’s lives. Before coming to Philadelphia, she covered state politics as Harrisburg bureau chief for WITF, and hosted the station’s politics podcast. She got her start in public radio in the Bronx, at Fordham University station WFUV. She’s from upstate New York.
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