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Pennsylvania Congressional Maps are Thrown Out

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the state’s congressional maps violate the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Court ruled the districts are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and blocked the use of the current districts for the primaries slated for May.  In doing so, the Court ordered an immediate redrawing of the districts by the legislature or the Court held it will draw the districts.

Interestingly, earlier this month, a three-judge federal court panel upheld the congressional districts rejecting the plaintiff’s partisan gerrymandering challenge. Given the federal court ruling, the majority Republican legislature intends to appeal the state Supreme Court decision to the federal court where there already a number of pending partisan gerrymandering cases.

In Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Maryland, partisan gerrymandering challenges are pending before the United States Supreme Court. These cases allege violations of the United States Constitution since one political party has drawn the districts to favor itself at the disadvantage of the other political party.

Pennsylvania relatively has comparable facts to the other states.  Recent Presidential and U.S. Senate elections in Pennsylvania have been back and forth between the Republicans and Democrats. However, after the 2010 Census, the Republican majority legislature drew the Congressional districts where now Republicans currently hold 13 of the 18 seats. The Court ruled these congressional districts “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violate the constitution.

Gerrymandering challenges are everywhere.  In the next five to six months, the Supreme Court should rule on some of these cases and once the Court speaks, we could have new ground rules that potentially affect future elections in many states.  For example, Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at the University of Florida, predicts a redrawn Pennsylvania congressional map could produce four or five more Democrat leaning districts.  Clearly, this demonstrates the huge impact partisan gerrymandering decisions could have on the makeup of state and Congressional districts.

Stay tuned in. The Pennsylvania decision is here.