Pennsylvania's top court delivers scathing indictment of political gerrymandering

New Congressional Map in the Hands of Governor Wolf

It could have implications for Pennsylvania in the aftermath of the state Supreme Court order to redraw congressional districts.

But Democrats are challenging the validity of district in counties encompassing the cities of Charlotte Raleigh on the grounds that they were intentionally drawn to perpetuate GOP control on the state legislature.

But Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who handles the emergency appeals from Pennsylvania, has rejected the request of GOP legislative leaders to put the redrawing on hold for now.

Just as important is that the court decision will ensure that our Congressional representatives listen to us and support laws and policies that serve us. Namely, the court found that, in order to comply with the Free Elections Clause, a district must be "be equal, to the extent possible", "comprised of compact and contiguous geographical territory" and respect "the boundaries of existing political subdivisions contained therein, such that the district divides as few of those subdivisions as possible."When, however, it is demonstrated that, in the creation of congressional districts, these neutral criteria have been subordinated, in whole or in part, to extraneous considerations such as gerrymandering for unfair partisan political advantage, a congressional redistricting plan violates Article I, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The challengers asked the state court to block the use of five state House districts adopted by the Republican lawmakers a year ago for Wake and Mecklenburg counties and order them to use election districts drawn by Nathaniel Persily, the Stanford University professor hired by the federal court as a 'special master.' Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina Republican Party executive director, criticized the move as 'Hail Mary efforts by the other side'".

This is the only state in 2018 where court rulings on extreme Republican-led gerrymandering are poised to see new U.S. House districts created that would lead to fairer elections-and likely Democratic pickup of several seats.

Before the redistricting decision, Democrats had zeroed in on six Pennsylvania congressional districts out of 91 they are targeting nationwide.

"It's saying, Apply these standards when you draw new maps, but we reserve the right to throw them out if we don't like them", said Crompton. They are seeking, Berman wrote, "to transform the state's courts by gerrymandering judicial maps to elect more Republican judges, preventing [Democratic Gov.] Cooper from making key judicial appointments, and seeking to get rid of judicial elections altogether". "There are some nice, objective guideposts that people have now, and it's very clear that you can't go to town and do things like the Pennsylvania Seventh [District] anymore".

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Updike Mundy [opinions, PDF] each filed dissenting opinions.

"The ball is in our court", he said. That's because the issue is a state issue, particularly a provision in the state constitution that prohibits redistricting during the middle of decade, the lawyers contend.

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"I think there are legitimate federal questions", he said.

"A diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation".

If he does, the court order indicates that the maps can be used in the May 15 primary.

By using the state constitution's "free and equal" clause - and distinguishing it from the federal constitution's Equal Protection Clause - the opinion shows that state constitutions can be broader in their protections, providing a new avenue for fighting partisan gerrymandering, said Joshua A. Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky and expert on election law.

They contend that as a result of the Supreme Court remand order, the three-judge county in wake Count is "adequately positioned to rule immediately on ... remedial issues and order into effect a map that respects the state constitution".

Democratic candidates also received much higher margins of victory in their respective districts than their Republican counterparts.

In anticipation of Friday's deadline, lawmakers have begun the preliminary procedures that could pave the way for a new map.

It is time government started working for us again.

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