State panel to meet again on redistricting plan
February 16. 2013 8:08AM
Late Wednesday, there were no signs that the commissioners had overcome their partisan divide and reached an agreement ahead of the meeting.
‚??We‚??re voting on plans, and we‚??re going to see what‚??s what,‚?Ě the commission‚??s executive director, Charles O‚??Connor, said late Wednesday. ‚??Hopefully one passes. They‚??re still working, they‚??re still exchanging plans back and forth, and hopefully we‚??ll have something that has consensus or a majority.‚?Ě
More than two months ago, a 4-3 state Supreme Court majority threw out the commission‚??s first plan, saying it split too many municipalities and noting that Senate districts were shaped like a wishbone, a crooked finger and an iron cross.
The new maps are required under the state constitution, in order to account for population shifts that have occurred over the past decade. The process is closely watched by incumbent lawmakers, who could see their districts moved to other parts of the state, or the lines drawn to shift them into a neighboring member‚??s territory.
The commissioners include the Democratic and Republican floor leaders of the House and Senate. The fifth member, Republican Stephen McEwen, is a state appeals court judge and former district attorney in Delaware County who was appointed by the Supreme Court after the other four could not agree on a chairman.
The commission is working against a 90-day time limit that began when the Supreme Court threw out its previous effort. There is some uncertainty about the exact date, because the court issued its ruling Jan. 25 but did not provide its written opinion until nine days later, but either deadline is fast approaching.
If the commission passes a preliminary plan in time, 30 days of public comment will ensue. After that period is over, the commission would have another month to vote on its final plan. Legal challenges could follow, as occurred late last year to the commission‚??s first set of maps.
If the commissioners fail to pass a preliminary plan, the state constitution directs the Supreme Court to take over the process.
The constitution requires that the districts be ‚??of compact and contiguous territory as nearly equal in population as practicable,‚?Ě and that only ‚??absolutely necessary‚?Ě divisions should be made to counties, cities, towns, boroughs, townships or wards.