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Politics & Government

Government Watchdog: District Maps are Absurd

A government reform advocate says that the approval of a preliminary plan to redraw House and Senate districts in Pennsylvania shows that the whole system needs to be changed.

At a meeting on Monday, the chairman of the redistricting panel called a half-hour recess to get legislative caucus leaders to share their final proposed maps. But Democrats and Republicans emerged still split on their respective plans.

Barry Kauffman, head of Common Cause Pennsylvania, calls the panel's antics a testament to a needed reform of the redistricting process. "Here we have what is really the biggest political power play of the decade being decided by four people who haven't even seen the maps until half an hour before they need to vote. That's just an absurd situation. There's clearly a need to change this whole process," said Kauffman.

The approval starts the clock ticking on a comment period. Kauffman said he expected the public to get more than two and a half weeks to review the preliminary plan before the first scheduled public hearing.

In the past, redistricting plans haven't changed much after the first round of maps was approved.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody did ask the commission chairman, former Judge Stephen McEwen, for an additional public hearing, but was rejected. "Well, I think we'll know that better after November 18. See how many people are left over who want to testify, as I see it. In any event, we'll proceed to a hearing on the preliminary plan on November 18," said McEwen.