It's unclear how much attention will be given to this map when all is said and done, but Democratic Gov. Wolf has hinted that he thinks it would be optimal to work with his colleagues across the political aisle to submit something to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, calling a "consensus map" an "ideal scenario". If they are unable to do that, a four-judge majority on the court has ruled, the court will impose its own corrective plan. Well, they had the audacity to rule that Pennsylvania's heavily gerrymandered congressional maps had to be redrawn in a less partisan fashion.
Gerrymandering, said Bryn Hammarstrom, has allowed a state that has more registered Democrats than Republicans to have Republicans hold two-thirds of the congressional seats. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, he noted, recently referred to such analysis in a Wisconsin case as "sociological gobbledygook".
"It is the first time that a state constitution has been used to strike down a map where [anti-gerrymandering language] is not explicit", Li said.
Pennsylvania's congressional map, as adopted in 2011, violates the state constitution's guarantee that "elections shall be free and equal", the state Supreme Court said Wednesday in an opinion explaining its gerrymandering order overturning the map more than two weeks ago.
This case is one of many legal challenges to partisan and racial gerrymandering that are working their way through state and federal courts. One district was so egregious it was nicknamed "Goofy kicking Donald Duck", because that's exactly what it looked like. The district is held by Republican Patrick Meehan, who is retiring after reports that he settled a sexual harassment allegation. The case in which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene on Monday was filed in state court and attorneys for the League of Women Voters argued they based their arguments on state law.
It has given the legislature and the governor until February 15 to "enact" a new plan.
The constitution that served as the basis of the Court's opinion was Pennsylvania's constitution, which contains a "free and equal elections" clause, and pre-dates the U.S. Constitution by ten years. In the court's estimation, this clause is "a bulwark against the adverse consequences of partisan gerrymandering".
"That being said, the overreach by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for purely political purposes is a unsafe precedent to set", Bernstine said.
In anticipation of Friday's deadline, lawmakers have begun the preliminary procedures that could pave the way for a new map. "They are trying to ignore a Supreme Court decision that came out less than 24 hours ago".
State Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Lawrence County, said he would support efforts to imrpove the redistricting process.
That advantage has been despite the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania. A reshuffled map is expected to make several districts friendlier for Democratic candidates in November.
The governor, when he reviews maps, will be receiving help from Moon Duchin, a professor of mathematics at Tufts University, to help evaluate any potential maps to determine their fairness.
"It's saying, Apply these standards when you draw new maps, but we reserve the right to throw them out if we don't like them", said Crompton. Another portion traces Pennsylvania's history, at one point quoting a delegate to the 1873 Constitutional Convention.
"This has a veneer of naked partisanship" that has not be as obvious in other recent conflicts between the Legislature and the courts, he said.
The push to complete the unprecedented task of redrawing the congressional maps comes at a particularly hectic time for the Legislature.
Corman said that while some lawmakers will likely want to attend that parade, there should be enough at the Capitol to vote on re-drawn maps if there's a plan in place.