Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court Strikes Down Congressional District Maps As Unconstitutionally Gerrymandered

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01.22.18 3 Comments

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Former California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger recently used some Terminator-oriented catchphrases in an effort to raise awareness of gerrymandering, i.e. the practice by which some states (allegedly) draw legislative districts in a racially biased manner. He did so in the hope that SCOTUS would rule the practice unconstitutional, which could happen, but for now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has taken matters into its own hands.

The court determined that Pennsylvania’s 18 House districts were redrawn in 2011 by the state’s Republican-led Congress to favor their party. To that effect, the districts must be redrawn once more, and this must happen by February 9, so as to allow plenty of time before the 2018 U.S. House primary elections:

First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional. Accordingly, its further use in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States House of Representatives, commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary, is hereby enjoined.

The New York Times notes that the state’s GOP legislators are vowing to immediately appeal this decision in federal court, but that’s unlikely to go anywhere, given that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court based their decision on principles within the state’s constitution, including equal protection. And the effects of the court’s order could have a palpable effect on the upcoming elections, especially in a swing state like Pennsylvania where Democrats currently only claim 5 out of 18 of the state’s congressional districts.

Along with a federal court’s recent order that North Carolina must also redraw its congressional districts, the Pennsylvania decision could give Democrats a real shot to retake the U.S. House majority. Esquire writes that the U.S. is reaching a gerrymandering tipping point, which is entirely possible, for this year may see even more decisions like these from the courts.

(Via Pennsylvania Supreme Court, New York Times, Esquire & Reuters)

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