“Gerrymandering is where one political party does that – draws the lines basically – to try and give their party an advantage in the elections.”
That’s what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court says the Republican controlled state congress has done to the federal congressional district map.
And now the state Supreme Court says it “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the constitution of the Commonwealth.”
“The court basically says now you need to produce a new map and the people who are producing the new map are the same people that produced the previous, heavily partisan map,” said Professor Lee Hachadoorian, a professor of Geography and Urban Studies here at Temple University.
The current congressional district map has 18 total districts. 13 of the seats are held by Republicans – with only 5 being held by Democrats.
“President Obama carried the state you know slightly more than 50% of the vote so you might expect that the congressional seats would split 9-9 or depending on how the lines were drawn, maybe you get 10-8 or something like that. 13-5 starts looking really suspicious.”
While the United States Constitution does not specifically rule gerrymandering unconstitutional – Professor Hachadoorian says that voters’ first amendment rights are at stake.
“This case is based on free association, which is a first amendment principle and the idea that voters of the losing political party are basically having their free association rights infringed upon by virtue of being pushed into districts where their votes essentially don’t count.”
The Pennsylvania House and Senate have until February 9 to get a new map to Governor Wolf’s desk before it can go to the court. If they do not comply – the court will take the map into its own hands – and likely go into effect for the May primaries.