Pa. House Republicans ask court to toss proposed legislative maps, reuse current lines in 2022

In a Thursday filing,, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, called for the maps of 203 state House seats and 50 Senate districts to be redrawn ‘without race as a predominant factor’

By: - February 17, 2022 5:01 pm

The new Pa. House map (Capital-Star file).

Pennsylvania House Republicans have filed a legal challenge with the state Supreme Court against the state’s proposed legislative maps.

In a Thursday filing,, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, called for the maps of 203 state House seats and 50 Senate districts to be redrawn “without race as a predominant factor” and “so that they do not subordinate traditional redistricting criteria for partisan gain.”

The 5-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved the maps in a bipartisan 4-1 vote earlier this month.

Benninghoff, the second-ranking Republican in the state House, cast the only dissenting vote; Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, backed the proposal after negotiating with her Senate Democratic counterpart Jay Costa, D-Allegheny.

Commission chairman Mark Nordenberg and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, also supported the proposal.

The complaint Benninghoff filed Thursday also alleges that the map’s population deviation between districts is too high; the map should not have used data that reallocated thousands of prisoners back to their home address; and that the number of Republicans paired with another incumbent was excessive — although that total decreased between the draft and final map, and was further reduced by a number of Democrat retirements.

Additionally, Benninghoff filed a separate petition asking for the state Supreme Court to order that legislators in both the House and Senate run in their current district, drawn in 2012 by a Republican-controlled panel, in the 2022 election.

After ruling the initial commission map unconstitutional last decade, the high court ordered that legislators run on their old lines again. 

Benninghoff harkened back to this ruling, arguing his request to “is in line with past precedent and reflects the dual realities of this plan’s significant legal challenges and the need to have certainty in the conduct of the 2022 elections” in a statement.

Where to draw the lines in Black, Latino communities at center of Pa. legislative map fight

Specifically, in the map challenge, House Republicans asked the court to undo “unnecessary” splits to Allentown, Lancaster, Reading, Harrisburg, and State College in the House map. The filing also calls for the court to take a look at splits of Allegheny County, Lancaster, and the Lehigh Valley in the Senate map.

Nordenberg justified many of the city splits as necessary to create new districts with a critical mass of minority voters who could then elect a candidate of their choice. 

Overall, the map also creates more than half-dozen new districts with a Democratic lean, cutting into a Republican majority that has not been meaningfully threatened since the current maps were put in place.

Nordenberg and McClinton argued this was a natural byproduct of the new minority-influenced districts, population shifts towards the blue-tinged southeastern portion of the state, and undoing decades of gerrymandering that has benefited incumbents in both parties.

“By virtually any measure these are very good maps that are fair, that are responsive to the requirements of the law, and that will serve the people of Pennsylvania well for the next ten years,” Nordenberg said when the new lines were approved.

But Benninghoff charged that the changes were instead an illegal attempt to subordinate the constitution’s basic redistricting requirements, such as compactness and municipal splits, for partisan gain. This echoes arguments that the Supreme Court made when it struck down a Republican-drawn congressional map in 2018 as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

The commission’s proposed House map has fewer splits and is more compact than the current map Benninghoff requested be used this year instead.

But on the eve of the final vote, Benninghoff offered his own draft map with fewer county splits, though also fewer minority opportunity districts, which he argued shows that the proposed splits are unnecessary.

The filing now joins a logjam of litigation sitting before the state Supreme Court.

 In the coming weeks, the high court’s justices must answer Benninghoff and any other challenges to the Legislative map, pick a new congressional map, amend or delay entirely the state’s primary election calendar, and decide whether or not Pennsylvania’s 2019 mail-in ballot law is constitutional.

Three residents of Butler County have already filed a legal challenge to the map. Meanwhile, Latino community advocates are also weighing a challenge to the lines, arguing the map unfairly dilutes their voting power.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.