The United States Supreme Court declared on Monday it will not overturn the Pennsylvania State Court’s decision to redraw congressional district lines that were the result of partisan gerrymandering. In a somewhat unexpected move, conservative Justice Samuel Alito (speaking for the entire court) refused to hear the appeal. The decision will yield a more democratic environment for Pennsylvania voters, and it will likely increase Democrats’ prospects for gaining seats in the 2018 midterm elections.
Last month, the Pennsylvania State Court ruled that the manner in which the congressional lines were drawn by a Republican-controlled state legislature in 2010, 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.
Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics called Pennsylvania the “gerrymander of the decade” in 2011.
After the Pennsylvania State Court’s decision, the GOP in Pennsylvania appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision, or at least to buy time before the midterm elections. But the Republican Party’s misdeeds appear to be catching up with them in the Keystone State.
Lawmakers in the state have been given until February 15 to submit an updated version of the congressional district map. Because there is a Republican majority in Pennsylvania’s legislature this is not likely to happen, and it will, therefore, fall to the State Court to draw the new lines. The State Court has a Democratic majority.
Because both the Democratic court and the Democratic governor will have veto power over the new congressional map in Pennsylvania, the final product likely not be as favorable to Republicans as the previous version.
Therefore, when they go to the polls to vote in the 2018 midterm election, Pennsylvania voters can be assured that Republicans will no longer have their thumbs on the scale. The congressional maps will be drawn more democratically. And as a result, Democrats may gain an important advantage in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania.