Pennsylvania is the latest state where a battle has broken out between dominant Republicans and angry Democrats who are challenging the way district lines for elections have been drawn, charging they are unfair and unconstitutional – which they most certainly are.
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Joe Scarnati, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania state Senate, today refused to cooperate with an order from the state Supreme Court demanding data used to draw lines for the Congressional district, which Democrats say were illegally gerrymandered.
Scarnati’s argues that only a federal court has greater oversight of the state’s election map and that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is usurping the legislatures constitutionally mandated right to do the redistricting once a decade.
There are currently 13 Republicans and five Democrats in the state House of Representatives.
The State Supreme court, with a majority of justices, appointed when Democrats ruled the state, found earlier this month that the congressional map was gerrymandered and ordered the state to draw a new map before the upcoming elections.
The Republican-controlled state legislature two weeks ago went to the U.S. Supreme Court and asked the justices to throw out the state court ruling, and asked the court to put a hold on the request by the state court. That apparently has not happened, yet.
This is the latest in a string of cases relating to the gerrymandering of congressional districts. Battles are also raging in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and elsewhere.
This dates back to the 1990s when Republicans began a drive funded by conservatives to take control of state houses and state legislatures in advance of the end of the decade. By winning control, the Republicans got the right to redraw maps after the census, which was completed in Pennsylvania in 2011.
It had a powerful impact in the 2016 election when not only did the Republicans dominate the statewide races, but Trump won the electoral votes as president.
In this decade, Democrats have gone on the attack fighting what they see as gerrymandering in courts and working toward winning back state legislatures.
Now Republicans have launched their own party effort to do the same.
“The organization, called the National Republican Redistricting Trust, will focus on data and legal efforts and “serve as a central resource to coordinate and collaborate” on redistricting for other party organizations and members, according to a memo announcing its formation,” reports Politico.
This was a major change as for many years Democrats had won statewide races and most presidential races. Pennsylvania was a key state in the election of Donald Trump.
Now both Republicans and Democrats have task forces that are going across the country trying to win control of legislatures before the next census in two years, which will again determine who gets to draw the electoral district lines.
“Both parties are already determined to elect governors and state legislators who will have a hand in drawing future political maps,” adds Politico, “but they are also preparing behind the scenes for an array of state-by-state legal fights over redistricting in the years to come.”
Fights over who draws election districts, and whether they have been drawn fairly, may not be sexy to many people or the national media, but it is a hugely important matter when it comes to who is in charge, and who will be in control for another ten years.
What is happening in Pennsylvania is one battle in a rapidly growing war for control of the country, and the stakes could not be any higher.