Senate GOP seeks to include judicial elections in redistricting changes

Dems say Republican amendment threatens to derail legislation

Tony Romeo
June 12, 2018 - 9:00 pm

Dreamstime

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — As state lawmakers consider legislation on a new procedure for drawing up congressional maps, the Pennsylvania Senate has added language to change judicial elections that one Democrat calls a "poison pill." 

The legislation comes after a bitter battle over new maps imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

The Senate Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an amendment that aims to create an independent commission to redraw congressional maps. But a heated debate followed on another amendment to the redistricting bill, which passed with Republican votes and would see appeals court judges elected by districts, not by a statewide vote. 

"We are on the precipice of actually making some progress on this issue," said Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach. "And we put this poison pill in this to kill this effort."

But Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument, the sponsor, said the amendment is about fairness, and the current statewide voting has skewed the appeals courts' makeup toward Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

"Only 15 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are home to an appellate court judge," he added. "It is severely, severely disproportionate, and it is unfair."

"This is a political maneuver," countered Democratic state Sen. Anthony Williams, who represents parts of Philadelphia and Delaware counties, "not a substantive conversation on good reform."

The bill is now poised for a final Senate vote.