Voices & Choices

Pennsylvania Supreme Court issues latest blow against partisan gerrymandering

Pennsylvania Supreme Court issues latest blow against partisan gerrymandering

In an order issued on Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the district lines “clearly, plainly and palpably” violate the state Constitution and gave the Republican legislature until February 9 to draw new ones.

It is the second ruling in less than two weeks where a court has struck down an entire state congressional map as unconstitutional and demanded that the state legislature oversee a redraw in time for the November 2018 elections.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court quickly issued a stay last week in the North Carolina case. Two other partisan gerrymandering cases – one from Wisconsin (Gill v Whitford) and another from Maryland (Benisek v Lamone) – are awaiting rulings from the Court this spring.

Republicans in Pennsylvania immediately indicated that they would seek a similar stay; it’s likely to be granted, with both the North Carolina and Pennsylvania cases likely to be affected by whatever the Court determines in Gill and Benisek.

The difference here, however, is that this is a state ruling based on a reading of a state constitution – so predicting the outcome here based on the other cases could be complicated.

The Pennsylvania congressional maps were drawn by the Republican legislature in 2011. They helped tilt the swing state’s delegation in Washington to 13 Republicans and five Democrats. The maps have been a Republican firewall: In 2012, for example, Democrats won almost 100,000 more votes, but still earned less than 28 percent of the seats. Not a single seat has changed hands all decade on these maps.

New maps would likely erase the GOP advantage and create something closer to a 50/50 split, most redistricting experts agree.

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