Supreme Court Releases Majority Opinion in Redistricting Case

Supreme Court Releases Majority Opinion in Redistricting Case

Supreme Court Releases Majority Opinion in Redistricting Case

This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a 139-page opinion detailing why it rejected the state's Republican-drawn congressional districts for "clearly, plainly, and palpably" violating the state's Constitution.

The new map is the result of a January 22 order from Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, which invalidated the existing district boundaries as an illegal gerrymander by the Republican-controlled legislature. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania comes only two days before the deadline imposed by the January 22 order for the state legislature to submit a new redistricting plan to Governor Tom Wolf [official website].

"Our Court possesses broad authority to craft meaningful remedies when required...." wrote Justice Todd.

It's no secret why the Pennsylvania GOP wants to keep the map: With cleverly drawn lines, the party has managed to win 13 out of 18 US congressional seats even in years where Democrats got the overall majority of the votes.

The state Supreme Court, in an order issued January 22, found that the state's congressional map had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. "In terms of compactness, a rudimentary review reveals a map comprised of oddly shaped, sprawling districts which wander seemingly arbitrarily across Pennsylvania, leaving 28 counties, 68 political subdivisions, and numerous wards, divided among as many as five congressional districts, in their wakes", the justices wrote.

"It's saying, Apply these standards when you draw new maps, but we reserve the right to throw them out if we don't like them", said Crompton.

As time runs out, it could be almost impossible to present a new map to Gov. Tom Wolf by the February 9 deadline. Additionally, in past presidential elections, Pennsylvania usually goes blue, yet the state legislature swings overwhelmingly red.

The Republican leaders cited Wecht's comments during his successful 2015 campaign that "gerrymandering is an absolute abomination", it is "antithetical to the concept of one person, one vote", and that the Republican domination of congressional races in the state can't be explained "without partisan gerrymandering". They want those districts in and around Charlotte and Raleigh returned to their shapes as originally drawn in 2011.

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They contend that as a result of the Supreme Court remand order, the three-judge county in wake Count is "adequately positioned to rule immediately on ... remedial issues and order into effect a map that respects the state constitution".

"They have every right to say that it's not constitutional", he said. If this hodgepodge of Persily/NCGA districts holds up for November, Republicans would appear to be in a stronger position, which is why they're fighting the federal court so hard.

If he does, the court order indicates that the maps can be used in the May 15 primary.

"They didn't answer a lot of the questions I thought they would", he said. The high court, he said, did not address that. And there's some speculation that the state Supreme Court's lack of movement on releasing its detailed opinion may be meant to avoid releasing anything that would provide fodder for a legal challenge, he said. "Indeed, for our form of government to operate as intended, each and every Pennsylvania voter must have the same free and equal opportunity to select his or her representatives".

Gerrymandering critics are hoping the court will rule that voting maps can be so partisan they violate the Constitution.

But it's also extremely unlikely that those decisions will be handed down in time to stop this move to redo the congressional maps for the 2018 elections, he said. Candidate filing also would begin Monday.

The court's January 22 order gave the Legislature until Friday to come up with a new redistricting plan for the congressional districts.

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