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The Courts Draw The Line For Gerrymandering

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has thrown out the state's legislative maps. Now the fight is over who should draw new maps, and how.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has thrown out the state's legislative maps. Now the fight is over who should draw new maps, and how.

What do fair maps of federal districts look like? In Pennsylvania, lawmakers are arguing with each other and with the courts to figure that out.

The state Supreme Court threw out Pennsylvania’s old maps, ruling they violated the state’s constitution and favored one party over another (in this case, the GOP). Control over district lines is so valuable in the Keystone state, one lawmaker suggested booting out unfriendly judges to maintain the old maps. But instead, a new set of maps has been introduced, and The Washington Post says they’re “just as gerrymandered”(https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/11/pennsylvania-republicans-have-drawn-a-new-congressional-map-that-is-just-as-gerrymandered-as-the-old-one/?utm_term=.36e2752f7571) as the last maps.

From a partisan standpoint, in other words, the new map is almost exactly like the old one. Under the existing map, Democratic House candidates have routinely received roughly 50 percent of the statewide popular House vote but only five of the state’s 18 House seats. The new map is unlikely to change that.

State Republicans deny this is a partisan tactic. And since the state constitution gives lawmakers the power to draw maps, why shouldn’t the controlling party do so? After all, both sides can benefit from having control over the maps.

But this could change soon. The Supreme Court is considering two cases that will likely determine the future of political mapping. These decisions could not only shift the balance of power in Washington, they could fundamentally change how politics are practiced across the country.


David Daley, Senior fellow, Fairvote; author, “Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy”; former editor-in-chief, Salon.com; @davedaley3

Carol Kuniholm, Chair, Fair Districts PA, a non-partisan advocacy group; @FairDistrictsPA

Michael Li, Senior counsel, Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, New York University; @mcpli

William Jay, Partner and co-chair, Goodwin law firm’s Appellate Litigation Practice; a former Assistant to the Solicitor General; former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; he has argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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