Gerrymandering by the Republican Party in Pennsylvania after the 2010 census was so severe that congressional districts resembled Rorschach tests. But a new map, released this week by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, makes the new districts more compact and removes the extreme partisan skew that was present in the old map. The fairer map is happy news for Democrats as they approach the midterms in November.
After the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit in June 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the manner in which the congressional lines were drawn by a Republican-controlled state legislature in 2011, was “clearly, plainly and palpably” in violation of the state’s Constitution.
Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts were the product of such an extreme partisan gerrymander that Republicans managed to take 13 of the 18 seats in the 2012 elections, a year when Democrats won the majority of the popular vote.
The new map that was released by the courts this week eliminates 1,100 miles of district border lines and splits fewer counties apart. Many states require congressional districts to be as compact as possible because, in the highly partisan process of drawing district lines, ensuring geographic proximity among voters in a district is one uncontroversial figure on which to rely.
The result of the redrawn map make districts held by several Republicans more competitive, which could give Democrats an advantage in the November midterms.
But Republicans are pledging to fight the new map, alleging that it is slanted to favor Democrats.
“Implementation of this map would create a constitutional crisis where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is usurping the authority of the Legislative and Executive branches,” reads a statement made by State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and state House Speaker Mike Turzai. “This map illustrates that the definition of fair is simply code for a desire to elect more Democrats.”
There have, of course, been examples of Democratic gerrymandering in the past, but according to the statistical analysis done by FiveThirtyEight, this is not one of those times.