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PA Supreme Court strikes down congressional maps, rules gerrymandering unconstitutional

23 January, 2018, 02:20 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district drawn to help Republicans maintain a political

In a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the electoral map violated the state Constitution by manipulating the district boundaries to minimize the voting power of Democratic voters, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez celebrated the court's decision as a "victory for democracy and another blow to the Republican Party's nationwide effort to game the system".

Pennsylvania has been described as one of the worst gerrymandered states in the country, and analyses have found the map is responsible for at least three additional GOP seats in Congress. Republicans controlled the redistricting process in 2010 and drew the map to give them a considerable advantage. The court also ordered the legislature to redraw the districts and have them approved by the governor before February 15, ahead of the May primaries.

"It shows there may be a second front in the war against gerrymandering that does not depend on what the U.S. Supreme Court does or does not do in the Wisconsin and Maryland cases", Li said.

Because the decision was a matter of state, and not federal law, it's unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene.

Last week, the nation's highest appellate court blocked a lower court's order for North Carolina to redraw its congressional lines. The court is expected to rule by the end of June in both cases. The speedy timetable is meant to make it possible for the state to hold congressional primaries in May as is now scheduled. "I want to thank and compliment the attorneys and parties who brought this before the Supreme Court and helped right this obvious wrong".

The court's five Democratic members said the congressional map "clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania".

The main requirements for congressional redistricting are that all districts are contiguous, that they have roughly the same population - "one person, one vote" - and that they can not discriminate on the basis of race.

"The court had this case since November 9, 2017 - giving it over 10 weeks to reach this decision", the lawmakers said.

Democrats now hold just five of Pennsylvania's 18 House seats - despite the fact President Barack Obama carried the state twice, while President Donald Trump won it by less than one point in 2016.

Reacting to the news, Governor Wolf said his office is reviewing the order and assessing their next steps. There are still some unanswered questions, such as which population data the new maps should be based on. "The timeline is what the timeline is, even though we disagree".

Redrawing the map could net Democrats anywhere from one to six seats in the state, Daily Kos elections writer Stephen Wolf reported.

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