Pennsylvania's Supreme Court just struck down the GOP's gerrymandering

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the gerrymandered districts in that state violated the state constitution

By Matthew Rozsa

Published January 22, 2018 3:31PM (EST)


Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has ruled on Monday that the heavily gerrymandered districts in their state violated the commonwealth's constitution.

A civic group and a collection of Democratic voters filed the lawsuit alleging that Republican politicians had illegally skewed the lines of Pennsylvania's congressional districts so as to unfairly entrench the GOP in power, according to Reuters. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which consists of five Democrats and two Republicans, seemed sympathetic to the argument that the redistricting violated the state constitution.

"So if you took the Democratic areas of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and connected them via the Pennsylvania Turnpike, that’s okay?" Judge Max Baer said in response to a claim by a lawyer representing the Republican state legislators that narrow "land bridges" can fairly connect different districts.

In its ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the General Assembly to submit a new plan for redistricting that would appear before Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, by no later than Feb. 9, 2018. Wolf would then have until Feb. 15, 2018 to approve of that plan and submit it before the court.

One noteworthy detail regarding the gerrymandering case is that, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found it to be in violation of the state constitution rather than the United States Constitution, the Pennsylvania Republican Party will have no recourse to the United States Supreme Court. They will be legally compelled to redraw the state's 18 congressional districts so they will have fairer boundaries.

Pennsylvania has received considerable attention as a swing state in recent election cycles. Although the state went to the Democratic presidential candidate in every contest from 1992 to 2012, it was picked up by Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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2018 Midterm Elections Gerrymandering Pennsylvania