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Between the Lines: State Lawmakers Ready Pennsylvania Map for Monday Target

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson will see some new territory once Pennsylvania’s new Congressional map is approved. Republicans want to split Democratic Erie County between Thompson and fellow GOP Rep. Mike Kelly.

Unlike some other redistricting standards, which prohibit certain and specific outcomes, the state statute only forbids purposeful political gerrymandering. The wording of that part of the amendment, known as Fair Districts, appears to be a recipe for a lengthy court battle.

The GOP-controlled state Senate released a draft Congressional redistricting map Monday that more or less keeps most of the 19 Republican Members in the delegation safe. National Democrats immediately blasted the proposed plan. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the new map was "partisan and inconsistent with the Fair Districts law." Republicans, of course, insist it was exceedingly consistent with the new law. And, in the end, a judge will probably decide.

Historical partisan data is almost always loaded into states' redistricting computer systems so line drawers can see the political bent of potential new districts. But, in a sign of how carefully the state GOP is treading in order to avoid the appearance of political intent, that information is absent from the Sunshine State's redistricting program.

"The mere presence of political metrics in the interface for building districts could create a perception, unsubstantiated and inaccurate though it may be, that partisan factors influenced how districts were drawn," the website for the state Senate's Committee on Reapportionment notes. "The Senate, in an abundance of caution, therefore departed from traditional practice and chose to omit voter registration counts and election results."

Another part of the Fair Districts amendment requires that both the intent and the result of redistricting don't abridge minority rights. Deviation from that standard would be easier to spot and might also violate federal law. Florida Republicans appear to have substantially focused on this portion of the state law, insiders said, pointing to a number of minority-opportunity districts under the proposed lines.

Although the release of a draft Congressional plan by the state Senate was only the first in a number of steps before final lines are signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott (R), Tallahassee insiders expect the Legislature to complete new lines relatively early in its 2012 session.

That would leave time for the inevitable court challenges, which will probably determine just what mapmakers intended. The case, likely to land in the Florida Supreme Court, may break new ground.

"The court in Florida may be the first to deal with a state constitutional requirement dealing with intent and what that means," Democratic redistricting expert Jeffrey Wice said. "There have been no decisions on that issue yet."

Kentucky: Republicans Release Competing Plan

The Republican chairman of the state Senate's redistricting committee proposed a new Congressional map that leaves the political bent of the Bluegrass State's six districts about the same, the Associated Press reported.

It conflicts with the map proposed by the Democratic state Speaker. At issue will likely be changes to Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler's 6th district, which he won in 2010 by only 647 votes. A new Congressional map is subject to veto by newly re-elected Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. A plan is expected to be passed early in the new year.

Arizona: Brewer Won't Call Special Session

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has taken at least one option off the table when it comes to Republican efforts to battle an independent redistricting commission's draft map.

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