In a victory for voting rights and a blow to GOP efforts to aggressively manipulate congressional districts in their favor, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected Pennsylvania Republicans’ attempt to restore a gerrymandered map that “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violated the state’s constitution.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the fundamental right of Pennsylvanians to fair representation—something they have been denied since this gerrymandered map was put in place.”
—Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause
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If Republicans had been successful, their map—characterized by analysts as one of the more extreme partisan gerrymanders in the nation—would have remained in place for the 2018 midterms.
But the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a Pennsylvania high court ruling requiring lawmakers to redraw the state’s congressional districts by February 9 “effectively ensures” a fairer map in 2018, creating an opening for a wave of Democratic victories.
As Pema Levy of Mother Jones notes, “Republicans won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats in November 2016, even though voters statewide were roughly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.”
In a sign of how “frivolous” Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments were for upholding their previous map, conservative Justice Samuel Alito denied the request for a stay on his own, not even bothering to refer the case to the full court.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the fundamental right of Pennsylvanians to fair representation—something they have been denied since this gerrymandered map was put in place,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, declared in a statement on Monday in response to news of the court’s decision.
“We can now move forward with restoring the confidence to voters that for the first time this decade votes cast will be in constitutional and not gerrymandered districts,” added Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “Democracy has been preserved and the march continues towards votes having meaning and Pennsylvanians having a voice and representation in Washington.”
Pennsylvania is just one of several states where Republicans have used large majorities to entrench their dominance by drawing congressional lines that favor their party.
And they have often been quite explicit about their intentions.
“I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander,” Rep. David Lewis (R-N.C.), chairman of the North Carolina State House’s Redistricting Committee, said in 2016, when the state was redrawing maps that were previously struck down for racial gerrymandering. “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”
As Common Dreams reported, a federal court last month deemed North Carolina’s 2016 map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
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