On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling invalidating the state’s heavily gerrymandered congressional map and requiring that Pennsylvania’s districts be redrawn before the 2018 election.
In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s congressional districts violate the state Constitution by unfairly benefiting the GOP and required they be redrawn in the next couple of weeks. Republican leaders then filed an emergency appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that redrawing order, which the Justices then rejected.
The Republican-controlled legislature now has until only Friday to submit a replacement map to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, who then has a week to decide to endorse and submit it to the state Supreme Court for final approval. The state Supreme Court expects new districts to be in place by February 19, which means that the map will be finalized before the May congressional primary. Democrats are hoping the new map could help the party pick up as many as half a dozen seats in the 2018 elections.
Since Republicans redrew the Pennsylvania congressional map in 2011, the GOP has held 13 of the state’s 18 seats in the House of Representatives, despite the fact that Democrats have almost 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans.
While the U.S. Supreme Court did not take any actions with regard to Pennsylvania, they did recently delay a lower-court ruling requiring that North Carolina redraw their congressional map, which gives an overwhelming political advantage to Republicans. In 2016, Republicans won 10 of the 13 congressional seats in North Carolina despite only winning 53 percent of the popular vote, and those district lines could still be in effect when the November election occurs.
North Carolina and Pennsylvania are not the only states involved in gerrymandering lawsuits. In July 2015, twelve Wisconsin residents filed a lawsuit arguing that the legislative district map that was drawn by Republicans after the 2010 census is unconstitutional and discriminatory towards Democratic candidates and voters. The map was thrown out by a federal court in November 2016, marking the first time a court had taken such an action in response to partisan gerrymandering. The case was heard before the Supreme Court in October and the decision will be announced in June 2018.
Media Resources: Washington Post 2/5/17; Feminist Newswire 1/23/18