Elections are the very bedrock as to what defines a democracy. A chance for citizens to make a decision on who should represent them in making laws, confirming judges, and approving treaties among nations. Elections are won, and lost, based upon who votes for which candidate, and which political party, in a given election. Elected representatives are elected based upon the district for which they reside. In addition, these districts are drawn based upon census data, and by the Legislature, who approves the congressional maps. However, when one political party tries to tip the balance in an election to favor that party, as is the case in gerrymandering, the process itself is faced with a legal issue where voters are unable to fairly elect a representative. A major legal battle that is underway is happening in Pennsylvania where the state is already facing the implications of what gerrymandering will do for an election.
On January 22, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court ruled that the current congressional map is heavily gerrymandered to favor the Republican Party and goes against the State Constitution. According to one report, the point of gerrymandering is not to give yourself more “safe” districts, but to give your opponent less. As a result, the State Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, will need to submit a new congressional map to Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, for approval by the State Supreme Court by February 15th. The congressional map, given to Governor Wolf, was determined by the Governor to be gerrymandered and was subsequently rejected. Fast forward to today, the State Supreme Court just issued its own map for the state to use for the May 15th primary. The State Supreme Court chose Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford Law Professor and redistricting expert, to redraw the maps in Pennsylvania.
One of the most heavily gerrymandered districts, in Pennsylvania, is the PA 7th Congressional District. This district encompasses parts of Chester, Berks, Delaware County, Montgomery, and Lancaster County. Below is an image of the PA 7th district throughout the years:
What does this mean going forward? Now that states are taking on the issue of political gerrymandering, congressional maps across the country could be challenged to address political intrusion, both Republican and Democrat, to skew elections. However, we can expect resistance from the PA Republican Party as they seek to file a lawsuit in federal court. This ruling is but one step in the quest for creating fair, equitable, elections that allows the People to decide who will represent them in elected office.
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