Published: Fri, February 09, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Pennsylvania Supreme Court's gerrymandering opinion seen as 'groundbreaking,' model for other states

Pennsylvania Supreme Court's gerrymandering opinion seen as 'groundbreaking,' model for other states

The U.S. Supreme Court told North Carolina officials late Tuesday they must use some but not all of the state's legislative districts that other federal judges redrew for this year's elections.

"We don't agree with the Supreme Court's decision", said state Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County. The legislative boundaries for districts of lawmakers in the General Assembly are created by a bipartisan redistricting commission.

In making its assessment, the court looked to the standards set by the state constitution to draw state legislative boundaries as a model for determining when USA congressional districts are constitutional. And while the Supreme Court did not completely throw out Persily's districts, it stayed a federal court from implementing them in Wake and Mecklenburg County, apparently acceding to the GOP's claim that this is a state issue. The required non-biased Congressional district mapping is meant to reaffirm voters, not a political party, decide who represents us. Then on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and temporarily blocked those changes while Republican lawmakers appeal.

For Lewis rose to national prominence back in 2016 when he was leading another Republican effort at court-ordered redistricting. The case in which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene on Monday was filed in state court and attorneys for the League of Women Voters argued they based their arguments on state law. Pennsylvania's 7 congressional district, which is so badly distorted that it looks like Goofy kicking Donald Duck, has so many twists and turns that it divides five counties and twenty-six municipalities.

"That being said, the overreach by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for purely political purposes is a unsafe precedent to set", Bernstine said.

Wolf said his office is ready to work with the General Assembly to get new maps approved. "I don't sit here and say this is the ideal solution, but we're trying to do the best we can".

Drew Crompton, Senate Republicans' top lawyer, said his caucus is working with House Republicans to develop a map.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states are considering legislation that would diminish the role or independence of the courts.

Lawmakers have also not had any conversation with the governor about what he would consider acceptable in a redrawn map.

If they can't reach an agreement with Gov. Tom Wolf and the court makes its own map, Crompton said, they'd likely sue in federal court, alleging the state justices infringed on the Legislature's duty to draw the map.

The current boundaries resulted from Republicans who controlled the Legislature and governor's office breaking decades of geographic precedent when drawing boundaries after the 2010 census.

"This arbitrary deadline that the Supreme Court has passed is unconstitutional", Dush said during the meeting.

Wolf must present the court with the new map by February 15. "They've given us a very tight timeline to begin with".

"If you want Congressional districts to represent communities instead of just random collections of people, they are not always going to be fair from a partisan standpoint", Ellis said.

While holding 72 percent of the seats in Pennsylvania's congressional delegation, the Republican candidates only received 49 percent of the cumulative votes cast in congressional races statewide in 2012. Holder serves as chairman of The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an Obama-backed organization created a year ago to focus on races and ballot initiatives in states perceived as victims of Republican gerrymandering. A special election for his successor is set for next month. In addition, five of Pennsylvania's other incumbent members of Congress have announced they are not seeking re-election this year.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles rejected the request by Republican legislators, who last fall chose to cancel primary elections for all judgeships in 2018. Bob Brady, a Democrat from Philadelphia; Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican from Delaware County; Bill Shuster, a Republican from Bedford County; Lou Barletta, a Republican from Luzerne County; and Charlie Dent, a Republican from Lehigh County.

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