In the bitter battle over election district gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court today usurped the state legislature which had failed to meet a series of deadlines and issued its own map for Congressional districts across the state.
The map appears to be much more fair in how it allocates Congressional seats, which means it is a big victory for Democrats, since the old map created by the Republican-controlled legislature clearly tilted toward the Republicans in every way possible.
Breaking: @CookPolitical PVI values for the new PA map (h/t @bycoffe). Note: districts were totally renumbered, so careful on before/after. Will walk thru the biggest changes below. 1/ pic.twitter.com/BL6JpgzXbQ
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 19, 2018
Republicans appealed unsuccessfully to the U.S. Supreme Court to intercede and have threatened to impeach the Democrats no the Supreme Court. The Republicans have also refused to provide materials needed to draw the maps and only offered slight variations in terms of what they saw as a fair map.
The court did not agree and said in order to keep the upcoming election schedule, it had no choice but to act to ensure every voter is given a chance for representation
“An election corrupted by extensive, sophisticated gerrymandering and partisan dilution of the vote is not ‘free and equal,'” Justice Debra McCloskey Todd wrote in the majority opinion for the Supreme Court.
The court also approved a revised nomination calendar for candidates who want to run for Pennsylvania’s House seats, which keeps the primary election on May 15. Candidates can enter from Feb. 27 until March 20.
“The new district lines have the potential to impact politics in Pennsylvania and at the national level,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, “as Democrats attempt to capitalize on favorable political trends to try to regain control of the U.S. House. “
Under the new plan, the Congressional seats are split among 13 counties. Under the old plan, written by Republicans in 2011, they were split among 28 counties.
According to an analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer, if the 2016 election used the new map, Trump would have won 10 Congressional districts instead of the 12 he actually won and the breakdown of votes would have been closer between Democrats and Republicans statewide.
Statewide, the Democrats and Republicans roughly split the vote, which is why Pennsylvania is considered a battleground state in national elections that could go to either party in a given year.
This map appears to give Democrats everything they could have hoped for in a politically fair Pennsylvania congressional map. This is a major win against gerrymandering. More analysis to come https://t.co/7uCoeVXppj
— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) February 19, 2018
The legal battles are not yet over. The Republicans lawmakers have vowed to challenge the new map in federal court arguing the Supreme Court has no right to draw the map because that is the job of the legislature.
The Republicans say the court did not give them enough time to draw a fair map.
The Court in its ruling said it recognized the primary responsibility for drawing a map is in the legislature, but when they do not provide a legal map to the governor for approval in time, “it would fall to this Court expeditiously to adopt a plan based upon the evidentiary record developed in the Commonwealth Court..a role which our Curt has full constitutional authority and responsibility to assume.”
While there will be legal challenges up to the U.S. Supreme Court, if as it appears the state justices have drawn a fair map at a time the feuding sides cannot otherwise reach an agreement, this new plan is likely to stand.
That is not just good for Democrats. It is also good for citizens who want fair elections.