Voter Suppression

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Down Gerrymandered Districts

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

To quote former Vice President Joe Biden, this is a "big fucking deal."

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled today that the state's congressional map is unconstitutional under the state's constitution.

The suit, brought by the League of Women Voters on behalf of 18 voters in each of the state’s congressional districts, said that GOP lawmakers had retaliated against Democratic voters for supporting Democratic candidates, violating the equal protection and free expression guarantees in the state constitution.

The justices gave GOP lawmakers until Feb. 9 to submit a new map and gave Gov. Tom Wolf (D) until Feb. 15 to approve it. Should the parties fail to reach an agreement on the plan, the justices said the court would move quickly on its own to develop a constitutional congressional map. The court said the new map could be expected by Feb. 19.

It's a very big deal that the state supreme court ruled that the gerrymandered districts violate the state constitution because that makes this is the final word. State Republicans say they will appeal the ruling, but it's not clear if they actually can appeal the ruling.

The United States Supreme Court has halted previous orders to draw new maps, but those orders were handed down by federal courts, not state courts. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote that they've ruled against the state's maps on the "sole basis" that they "violate the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." The language of the ruling seems designed to evade a US Supreme Court challenge.

If the Supreme Court does intervene in this case, it would be highly unusual. That doesn't mean it won't happen.