Monday November 20, 2017
Is gerrymandering finally facing an expiration date?
Critics have long detested gerrymandering, the practice of drawing the boundaries of legislative districts to protect the party in power. Both parties have utilized it for their own purposes. But Republicans, aided by more sophisticated technology, took redistricting to new heights after the 2010 census, critics say.
Now gerrymandering is facing legal challenges like never before, including two separate battles in Pennsylvania.
Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court agreed to allow a challenge to Pennsylvania's legislative districts to move forward.
At the same time, a federal court in Philadelphia is slated to consider a separate challenge to Pennsylvania's legislative districts.
The federal judge in that case ordered Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai, the state's top two Republicans, to turn over any communications they had with the GOP's Redistricting Majority Project, dubbed Project REDMAP.
Critics contend that gerrymandering on such a partisan basis subverts democracy, as power brokers carve out districts dominated by one party. With politically motivated redistricting, lawmakers are choosing their voters when it should be voters picking their representatives.
Critics say it's one reason that Republicans hold 13 of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional seats even though the majority of the state's voters are Democrats.
Congressional districts are supposed to be as compact as possible, but some of Pennsylvania's districts look like abstract art. Berks County is divided into four congressional districts.
Republican legislative leaders intend to vigorously defend the state's redistricting plan. Drew Crompton, general counsel to the state Senate Republicans, has noted that 36 Democrats in the state General Assembly approved the plan.
Opponents of gerrymandering, such as Fair Districts PA, want a better way to draw legislative districts in place after the 2020 census, which will force states to come up with new district maps.
The biggest legal challenge to gerrymandering rests with the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, the high court heard a case challenging the legislative districts in Wisconsin.
Ultimately, it will have the final say on gerrymandering.
But the two legal challenges in Pennsylvania underscore the fact that some people no longer are willing to accept that gerrymandering is just a fact of life.
Ron Southwick, Assistant Managing Editor : 610-371-5010 or email@example.com
Gerrymandering challenged like never before