Pennsylvania redistricting decision gives Democrats a boost

Republicans revise district map Wolf says he'll take a look

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The request comes the day after the U.S. Supreme Court partially granted a request from Republican lawmakers to block election lines drawn by a Stanford University law professor for four state House districts in Wake County and one House district in Mecklenburg County while they appealed a three-judge panel's ruling. By drawing congressional districts that significantly reduced Democrats' power relative to their numbers, the Republican-held legislature prevented Democratic voters from enjoying free and equal elections, the Court held.

The state Supreme Court said the GOP-controlled Legislature must submit a proposed replacement to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf by Friday.

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

"We don't need to draw a new map, we just need a state court to say yes", she said. "The challengers asked the state court to block the use of five state House districts adopted by the Republican lawmakers past year for Wake and Mecklenburg counties and order them to use election districts drawn by Nathaniel Persily, the Stanford University professor hired by the federal court as a 'special master.' Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina Republican Party executive director, criticized the move as 'Hail Mary efforts by the other side'".

But those factors should be subordinate to politically neutral criteria and the fact that "gerrymandering for unfair partisan political advantage" would violate the state Constitution.

New districts will likely increase Democratic chances to win several seats.

The Court's opinion stipulates that congressional maps should be "composed of compact and contiguous territory; as almost equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population".

David Gersch of Arnold & Porter, one of the lawyers representing the petitioners, celebrated the court's decision calling it an "historic opinion" and that it "recognizes partisan gerrymandering's corrosive effects on representative democracy and provides enduring protections for Pennsylvania voters".

Scarnati, he said, has refused to turn over data used to create the original district map.

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In that case, Republican leaders have said they would consider a federal lawsuit to stop the court, arguing that it does not have the legal authority to create its own map.

"They didn't answer a lot of the questions I thought they would", he said. 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.

"A diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation".

"This decision is a victory for the voters of Pennsylvania who would have been required to vote in a fourth election under an illegal partisan gerrymander had the Court sided with the defendants", Flynn said.

"Now, going forward when they redraw the map, when they redistrict in 2021, there are some clear guideposts that they will have to look to", he said.

"I am troubled by the majority's decision to strike down the 2011 congressional map on the eve of the 2018 midterm election", Mundy wrote. Republican lawmakers have also in an attempt to get him disqualified; the justice, Wecht, said in court filings that he doesn't feel he needs to recuse himself.

The PA Supreme Court gave lawmakers until February 9 to make a new map.

Drew Crompton, chief counsel for Senate Republicans, said in a written statement, that they would continue to review the opinions and determine if there is a further viable legal action to pursue in federal court.

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