With time running out to alter how Pennsylvania’s political maps will be drawn in 2021, Republicans in the state Senate made a dramatic change to a redistricting bill Tuesday that prompted key activists to pull their support and begin lobbying against it. One day before the bill came up for a final vote in the chamber, State Sen. Ryan Aument (R., Lancaster) introduced an amendment that would allow voters to decide whether appellate judges — including state Supreme Court justices — should be elected from regional districts rather than statewide. Democrats described it as a “poison pill” and an attempt to retaliate against Democratic state Supreme Court justices who just five months earlier voted to overturn the state’s congressional lines on the ground that they had been gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
“Every one of you in this room knows that the reason we are doing this today and forcing it into Senate Bill 22 is because [Republicans] want to retaliate against the Supreme Court,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) said in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Activists also decried the move. “We think it’s an inappropriate betrayal of the public trust,” said Carol Kuniholm, head of Fair Districts PA, the umbrella coalition leading the redistricting reform efforts in the state. She promised to make the amendment a campaign issue in the November election.