Capitol times. (Middletown, Pa.) 1982-2013, April 21, 2010, Image 4

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    Census results will shape 2011 Pa. redistricting
Pennsylvania political junkies
have much to chew over this year,
as state voters are about to pick
a new governor, decide whether
to return Sen. Arlen Specter
to Washington as a converted
Democrat, sort through a host of
competitive congressional races
and select 228 of the 253 state
At the same time, the state's
roughly 12.5 million residents are
completing census forms that also
will have a big influence on their
political future, most notably
because Pennsylvania seems
headed toward the loss of one of
its 19 congressional districts.
Those shifting population
patterns also will complicate the
task of the five-person legislative
reapportionment commission
that in about a year will begin to
redraw the General Assembly's
district lines.
Pennsylvania has added about
324,000 people since the 2000
census, ranking it a very average
21st among states, according
to preliminary figures. The 2.6
percent growth rate, however, is
among the weakest in the nation.
Judge weighs juror-misconduct claim in Veon case
A county judge said Friday he
would take about a week to decide
if three people convicted in last
month's public corruption trial
deserve a new trial or a hearing
based on juror misconduct
Dauphin County Judge Richard
Lewis told lawyers a blog account
of a trip to the state Capitol by
some jurors during the trial of
former state Rep. Mike Veon
and three of his ex-aides did not
seem to suggest an emotional
or inflammatory influence that
might require the judge to declare
a mistrial or take some other
Friday's hearing was prompted
by the posting by former juror
Jonathan Smith, made shortly
The commonwealth's newcomers
are concentrated in the Pocono
mountains region that straddles
Interstate 80 near New Jersey;
the suburbs of Philadelphia,
particularly booming Chester
County; and the south-central
Pennsylvania region along the
Mason-Dixon Line that runs
through Gettysburg, York and
According to the census
estimates, Philadelphia has
grown by about 2 percent,
while Allegheny County, which
includes Pittsburgh, has shrunk
by nearly 5 percent. Population
decline is concentrated in the
western counties.
Intriguingly, about half of
Pennsylvania's total estimated
growth over the past decade, or
some 176,000 people, consists
of people who have moved to the
state from foreign countries. In
terms of state-to-state migration,
Pennsylvania has had a net loss of
about 40,000 people.
Redistricting goes on in two
tracks one for Congress, the
other for the state Legislature.
The congressional map will begin
to be redrawn after Pennsylvania
gets the official word about
the size of its delegation. If, as
after the March 22 verdict was
returned, describing how a group
of jurors walked over to the
Capitol during lunch one day
and tried unsuccessfully to get a
look inside one of Veon's former
offices that had been the topic of
trial testimony.
Veon, Annamarie Perretta-
Rosepink and Brett Cott were
found guilty of some of the
counts against them in the case
that centered on allegations they
conspiredto divertpublic resources
to wage political campaigns. The
fourth defendant, Steve Keefer,
was fully acquitted.
Defense attorneys argued that
Smith's account was sufficient
to justify a mistrial, and that the
defendants deserved to learn
more about who went on that
walk to the Capitol, and the
extent to which they discussed
expected, the state loses a seat,
many expect that to be felt most
acutely in the far southwestern
district represented until recently
by the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha,
The congressional plan requires
approval by each legislative
chamber as well as the governor.
A decade ago, Republicans, who
held all three power centers,
produced a plan aimed at giving
them a stranglehold on the state's
congressional delegation, but it
hasn't quite turned out that way.
It's true that three Democratic
incumbents were immediately out
of their jobs, but in the past eight
years Republicans have watched
their 12-7 edge in seats turn into
a 7-12 deficit.
The General Assembly's
procedure for drawing its own
districts, revamped by the 1968
constitutional convention, falls
to a five-person commission that
consists of the Democratic and
Republican floor leaders of both
the House and Senate and a fifth
person selected by the other four
or, if they can't agree, by the
state Supreme Court.
Public outrage over lawmakers'
2005 pay raise generated a lot
of discussion about changing
the trial contrary to the judge's
instructions before the start
of deliberations. An evidentiary
hearing could shed more light on
what happened, they said.
"I don't know what they did up
there, and I don't think you can
sit here and say, well, obviously
there's no harm, because they
didn't do anything," said Bryan
Walk, Cott's attorney. He said a
hearing could explore "why did
you go, when did you go, who
went and whose idea was it, what
was discussed?"
Chief Deputy Attorney General
Christopher Carusone told Lewis
there was no reason to think the
Capitol trip prejudiced the jury
and warned that calling jurors onto
the stand after they have issued
a verdict is "a very dangerous
"To attribute some evil motive to
the redistricting process, which
some have criticized as a way
for leaders to settle old scores
and customize districts to protect
friends and help allies.
Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell
has spoken in favor of changing
the current system, and a handful
of bills have been introduced.
But nothing has gained fraction,
and at this point it's far too late
to amend the state constitution in
time to affect next year's process.
Tim Potts, co-founder of
Democracy Rising PA, a
Harrisburg-based citizen
advocacy group, blames cynical
redistricting for often giving
voters just one name on the fall
"That is precisely because the
districts are so gerrymandered as to
make the districts uncompetitive,"
Potts said.
Another school of thought
is that the leaders, as elected
representatives, are best
positioned to do the job, and that
the fifth person on the commission
has successfully played the role of
honest broker in the past. In short,
some think the system works and
that blatant gerrymandering is the
exception, not the rule.
"We don't see the pressing need
the jurors' actions is completely
out of line and improper,"
Carusone said.
Lewis said he plans to issue a
decision by the middle or end of
next week.
"There's no issue that the visit
to the Capitol was not thought out
very well by the jury," the judge
Smith did not immediately
respond to a message seeking
comment, and the blog post
apparently has been removed
from his Web site.
After six weeks of testimony,
Veon was found guilty of 14
offenses related to using taxpayer
paid bonuses to reward state
workers for campaign efforts,
illegal campaign fundraising,
other campaign efforts and having
aides drive two motorcycles to a
North Dakota rally.
for fundamental changes to the
system that's in place," said Erik
Arneson, spokesman for one of
the leaders expected to be part of
next year's map-drawing, Senate
Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi,
The goals of those who favor
redistricting changes can often be
A district designed to encompass
those with the same "community
of interest" can end up being so
homogenous that the minority
party has zero chance. Eliminating
strangely shaped districts and
making them more compact could
expose the plan to a legal attack
on the basis of •voting rights for
minority groups.
And the composition of the
nonpartisan redistricting panel
can itself lead to charges of undue
"It is very difficult to create
an authentically nonpartisan
process," said Nathaniel Persily, a
law and political science professor
at Columbia Law School. "These
people are ultimately elected or
appointed by someone."
Mark Scolforo covers the state
Legislature for The Associated
Press in Harrisburg. He can be
reached at mscolforo(at)
Cott was found guilty of three
of the 42 counts he faced, and
Perretta-Rosepink was found
guilty of five counts, related to
campaign efforts from 2004 to
Veon was formally arraigned
in front of Lewis on Friday for
charges related to the Beaver
Initiative for Growth, a now
defunct legislative nonprofit he
headed up.
Trial in that case, in which
Perretta-Rosepink also faces
charges, is scheduled to begin
April 19, but Veon's attorney said
he may seek a delay and Perretta-
Rosepink's lawyer said he plans
to file a motion saying prosecutors
have waited too long to bring her
to trial.