Lehigh Valley

Legal battles surrounding redistricting plan begin

Legal battles surrounding redistricting plan begin

Should you and your neighbors be able to vote for the same people? Voters challenging Pennsylvania's new voting districts, including several from Lehigh and Berks counties, say yes. Monday, they took their case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Across the state, many homes that are right next to each other, in the same neighborhood, now have two different people representing them in Harrisburg. It's all because of the new maps that carve Pennsylvania into different state legislative districts.

Monday morning, the state's highest court heard challenges to those maps.

"I've been voting since 1971," said Dennis Baylor, the auditor for Tilden Township, Berks County. "I've never had a person representing me from Berks County."

Critics argued that the redistricting plan, passed last month, splits up too many neighborhoods and cities. Some offered an alternative map that they claim keeps many districts together.

"When Monroe County is divided into six senatorial districts, it has no senator," said Supreme Court Justice Max Baer, "so it has no representation in Harrisburg."

An attorney for the city of West Chester said that Republicans split up the city, for no good reason, because it's largely Democratic.

"Is this a case where you're claiming gerrymandering or is this a case where you're saying Article 16 of the constitution was violated?", Baer asked their attorney.

Attorney Sam Stretton responded: "I'm claiming both."

"Absolute necessity" is a phrase you hear a lot in this case.

"Each split must be absolutely necessary," said attorney Virginia Gibson.

Opponents argued it has to be absolutely necessary to split up a neighborhood for it to be legal."

Some justices questioned that idea.

"So if I have a high school class and I come up with a computer program that can do this with one split, they have to explain every other split?," asked Justice Michael Eakin.

Justices promised a quick decision, but as of now, there's no timetable for one.

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