Editor's Note: The following press release was provided by State Rep. Tim Briggs's (D-Montgomery) office.
The press release addresses the state’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission's .
HARRISBURG, May 14 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, today delivered 515 signatures to members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission opposing the commission’s plan to split Lower Merion Township among four legislative districts.
Briggs, along with Reps. Mike Gerber and Pam DeLissio, who also represent parts of Lower Merion Township, provided residents the opportunity to have their voices heard in the state reapportionment process through a petition on their websites. The petition stresses opposition to the split, stating that further division in the Lower Merion community would make it more difficult for residents and representatives alike to focus on the problems and concerns specific to the township.
The public comment period on the preliminary map adopted by the commission on April 12 ended today.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January invalidated an earlier map drawn by the commission, saying the approach was "contrary to law." That plan also split Lower Merion among four House Districts.
According to Briggs, Lower Merion is one of only three municipalities in the Commonwealth to be split four ways, except for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both of which have very large, compact populations that require several districts within those cities. Lower Merion’s population has remained relatively unchanged in the past 20 years, standing at 57,825 today.
"Lower Merion has 178 residents less than it had in 1990," Briggs said. "That's not even enough people to cover one legislative district, let alone four. I believe the Supreme Court had Lower Merion in mind when it rejected the previous map in January and I hope that the commission finally sees the wisdom in our opposition."
Briggs said the four-way split in Lower Merion appears to be forced by a split in Haverford Township, Delaware County. He said Haverford Township has never been split in the history of the General Assembly and has formed the base of the 166th Legislative District since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reapportioned the General Assembly in 1965.
"If you follow this map to its rightful conclusion, the four-way split in Lower Merion is nothing more than the result of political influence in order to gain stronger, safer Republican seats in neighboring Delaware County," Briggs said. "The changes being made to the 149th District present no benefit to the current district or solve no problems for Lower Merion Township."
Briggs testified before the commission on May 2. He told the commissioners that eliminating a municipal split in both Lower Merion and Haverford and a county split at that location would be rational, follow the desire of affected residents who have been communicating with the commission and follow Pennsylvania's constitutional mandate for the reapportionment process.
Briggs said the commission’s proposed plan demonstrates a clear need to reform the existing congressional redistricting and state reapportionment process. Commission members include the House and Senate majority and minority leaders and a fifth ostensibly nonpartisan member selected by the other four commissioners or the Pennsylvania Supreme Court if the majority of commissioners cannot agree, which is usually the case.
The Supreme Court named retired Superior Court President Judge Stephen J. McEwen as the commission’s fifth member in April 2011 since the four Republican and Democratic leaders failed to agree on the fifth person. McEwen is Republican.
"It has become a completely political process," Briggs said. "It should be taken out of the hands of those who are directly affected by the outcome and placed in the hands of an independent commission, which would be tasked with drawing maps that make sense and ensure proper representation for all Pennsylvania residents.
"I will continue to fight to maintain as limited a change as possible for the 149th Legislative District and for our communities," he said.
Briggs said interested residents can track the state reapportionment process by visiting www.redistricting.state.pa.us.