Only days after a Democrat won a surprising victory in the U.S. House of Representatives in a Pennsylvania district special election, two federal court decisions today appear to ensure Democrats will have a fair chance in the May 15 state primary election and in the November midterm elections to continue their winning streak.
The ruling by a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court seems to mark the end of a heated legal and political battle that pitted the majority Republicans in the state legislature and a group of Republican Congressmen against Democrats who argued the district map created by Republicans in 2011 was grossly unfair.
Today's denials of the @PAGOP's superfluous appeals are a huge victory for democracy. We will have real races in Pennsylvania, where voters select their representatives, not the other way around. #Democracy.
— Dan Doubet (@dandoubet) March 19, 2018
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First, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that the two Republican legislators, including the Senate Majority leader, and eight Congressmen did not have proper legal standing to bring the case, which should have been done by the entire legislature itself.
The judges added that even if the right group did bring it, it would not have been successful because, in part, the federal judges are not going to rule on a dispute of this nature between the legislative branch and judicial branch of the state.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled the Republican redistricting was unfair gerrymandering and ordered the legislature to redraw the map, and gave them three weeks to do so in order to meet deadlines for the upcoming primary.
The legislature submitted a new plan which the state court rejected, and when the time limit was up the Supreme Court put forward its own redistricting plan, which is what the state will now use at least until November.
The Republicans also charged that the state Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds by taking a duty to redistrict that they said belonged to the state legislature.
“The Plaintiffs (the Republicans) invite us to opine on the appropriate balance of power between the Commonwealth’s legislature and judiciary in redistricting matters,” write the judges, “and then to pass judgment on the propriety of the Pennsylvania Supreme Courts’ actions under the United States Constitution. those are things that, on the present record, we cannot do.”
A few hours later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from the top Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers to have it step in and block the new map.
“With the back-to-back rejections Monday,” reported the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Philly.com, “no legal challenges to the map remained.”
For many years Pennsylvania has been considered a swing state in federal elections because about half the state’s voters are Democrats and half are Republicans.
Justice Alito comes from – and is assigned to hear appeals from – the 3rd circuit where Pennsylvania is located. Even he is possibly giving a tacit acknowledgment that the GOP map was heavily gerrymandered. https://t.co/oaG1Regtoy
— Clay Marsh (@claybmarsh) March 19, 2018
What the gerrymandering by the Republicans in 2011 did was to create a crazy quilt of districts that managed to isolate mostly Democratic voters and give an advantage to the Republicans, who have won every state election since.
The Democrats have argued they don’t want a plan that favors them, but rather just one that is fair to all voters and gives every candidate a fair chance to win an election.
As expected, a federal appeals court has thrown out the frivolous case from Pennsylvania's GOP members attempt to block the correction of @JakeCorman 's gerrymandered congressional districts. A win for voters across our great commonwealth.
— Frank Cianfrani (@VometCometCapt) March 19, 2018
That now seems to be the case, which could be a huge factor in whether the Democrats can retake the House this November, and as the majority decide what laws get considered, what hearings are held, and what investigations into Trump and others can move forward with full subpoena power.
As the federal judges noted in their ruling this was a very important case for the future health of the republic, and now we will find out what the voters really want, and not just what one party can do when given free rein over the electoral process.