Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and now Pennsylvania. It’s increasingly clear that courts across the country are ready to declare that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional and insist that political maps that allow voters to choose our elected officials, not permit officials to choose their voters.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court joined the judicial march toward fairer political maps today with a three-page order tossing aside congressional districts drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. The lawmakers’ map “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the five-justice majority said.
The court gave the GOP-led legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, until Feb. 15 to fashion a new map with districts “composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.”
If the legislature and governor do not act, the court said it will draw new map itself. The majority wants new districts in place in time for congressional primary elections set for May and the November general election.
The Pennsylvania ruling was made under provisions of the state Constitution, so it may not be subject to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican lawmakers already have said they will attempt an appeal, however.
The Supreme Court already has three challenges to partisan gerrymandering – from Wisconsin, Maryland and Texas – on its docket and has a fourth, filed by Common Cause in North Carolina, in the pipeline.
Legal authorities say the North Carolina case, Common Cause v. Rucho, invites the justices to set out clear standards for evaluating redistricting plans. North Carolina Republican leaders, who drew the challenged districts, have acknowledged that they set out to make a map that would guarantee GOP control of 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seat.
The results of statewide elections suggest that North Carolina is more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans; the state has two Republican U.S. Senators and a Democratic governor.
Issues: Voting and Elections