PENNSYLVANIA: State Supreme Court Rules US House Maps Are Unconstitutional, Likely Pickups For Dems

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack just announced on Twitter that the state Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 that the state’s US House district maps are unconstitutional, giving the state legislature under a month to redraw the maps.

The Times weighed in on the pending ruling last week:

If Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court rules that the state’s congressional map must be redrawn, Democrats’ opportunities could improve a lot before the midterms. It’s clear that the current one was drawn to the advantage of Republicans. Democrats won only five of the state’s 18 congressional districts in 2012, the year it took effect, even though they won the House statewide popular vote by 1.5 percentage points.

That’s partly because Democrats tend to “waste” votes in heavily Democratic urban areas, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But the cartoon-moose-shaped Seventh District, running from Philadelphia city limits to Amish country, is routinely listed among the nation’s most gerrymandered. It’s represented by the Republican Patrick Meehan, who faces a competitive re-election contest in a district that just barely voted for Hillary Clinton.

On this nonpartisan map, the Seventh would become a Democratic stronghold. The map here relies on standard nonpartisan redistricting criteria, like compactness and representing communities of interest. Democrats would make more incremental gains in several other congressional districts where Republicans have taken more subtle steps to reinforce their position.

  • Gustav2


  • Boreal

    This is good news as long as it is not overturned by a higher court.

    • PickyPecker

      SCOTUS needs to keep their nose out of these types of cases.

      • Blake J Butler

        They’re still waiting on Wisconsin’s ruling to come to an agreement on gerrymandering.

      • AJ Drew

        That’s a sad statement, isn’t it? (not sure I disagree with it. But I want to.)

    • Randy Ellicott

      Since its based on the state Constitution they would have to come up with a reason to appeal that would show that the state constitution violates the US constitution, which i think is probably not easy, but a lawyer might have a better answer.

      • The_Wretched

        In any other SCOTUS, there’s no path. This one, however, has been very aggressive in making new Law to ensure Republican Gerrymanders are protected.

    • friendlynerd

      I don’t see a path to SCOTUS, honestly. It’s a state constitution issue and the state supreme court has already ruled. If a petition were even made to SCOTUS, and I doubt there will be, they probably wouldn’t touch it.

  • Blake J Butler

    How does this work, they are redrawn for this years election, or does this also interfere with the special election this year as well ?

    If its a month, does this change the race for the special election ?

  • Vista-Cruiser

    Don’t get too excited. Apparently this decision was based on the Pennsylvania constitution, so it has no effect on other states.

    Besides, all signs from the US Supreme Court are that they will endorse gerrymandering, at least when Republicans do it.

    • Treant

      That’s the beauty of it; unless the Supremes wish to overstep, they have nothing to say about this. State Constitution, State’s Rights.

    • clay

      PA is one of the bigger states, so this will still have a small impact on the union. Additionally, this provides some legal support that can be tailored to fit other constitutions.

  • JoeMyGod

    As noted above, the most-affected district will be Rep. Patrick Meehan, who is already staggering under this weekend’s sexual harassment revelations.

    • Joe in PA

      Not to mention PA-06 (Costello) who barely won and Hillary DID win the district.

    • Todd20036

      I smell a “retirement” coming…

      • Judas Peckerwood

        I hear that his family is just begging him to spend more time with them.

      • Tawreos

        He’ll retire when he’s finished using government funds to pay off accusers

    • -M-
  • Publius

    We need a proportional system. We have made our electoral system too fucking complicated, with the added bonus of our politicians choosing their constituents.

    • The_Wretched

      I agree*.

      *and that distresses me. Then again, I’m pretty enraged by all the squinting to see silver lining (and shut the hell up liberals) from the party Dems today.

  • PickyPecker
    • Treant

      You see that big, stretchy 15? I’m in that, with Dent as a Congressjerk even though it includes Allentown.

      Not only is the Sixth likely to swing, the 15th has a better than average chance as well.

      • Joe in PA

        And you lucky fucker…you get Ryan Mackenzie next time (maybe). He is our PA rep, now going for a US spot (PA-15). He has blocked me on twitter and remove the commenting option on his FB page. So, good luck!

        • Treant

          Why’d he block you? Oh…Republican.

          Unlikely with the redistricting, fortunately.

          • Joe in PA

            He blocked me on his twitter account for his PA15 campaign. I questioned (very nicely) why he would post links to Breitbart (srsly, that’s who you will be dealing with). I suppose the part where I included a link to a WaPo article calling Breitbart a ‘racist site’ didn’t sit well. Snowflake.

      • ChrisMorley

        The PA SC gives strict instructions in its 4th point, about how to fairly redistrict

        • Treant

          That’s going to leave a mark. 6 and 15 will change. A lot in the west are going to change a lot as well.

          I’m…well, assuming this is done fairly…going to say that Pennsylvania picks up four Dem House reps in November.

      • jerry

        Was just looking at a PA map. Do you realize that PA has a town called SHARTlesville, along I-78? If ever a place was destined for a Trump visit, that would be it.

    • Oscarlating Wildely

      Because 13 makes SO much more sense? Seriously, we should be up next. Part burbs, part Philly, part “wait, didn’t that district line just move again?”

      Having noted, we’re about as blue as it gets so… not complaining. Plus our Rep. Boyle did that “Stable Genius Bill” wonder, so….

    • clay

      That’s the one the courts had already tossed out. The case, today, was about what they drew after that.

  • JoeMyGod
    • clay

      Hopefully, this will be required of the state legislative districts, too, insuring that the group elected to re-district after the 2020 Census will be more representative and use the new criteria.

  • Stubenville

    For once, good news from Harrisburg.

  • SFHarry

    What about grids adjusted for population. Would they just be fairest.

    • clay

      They ought to use existing county, municipality, and ward boundaries. Square grids wouldn’t even respect property lines.

  • JWC

    I have never understood why one political party is allowed to set these parameters to their advantage It like one foot ball team making their goal posts 10 feet apart and insisting that their opponents must be 100 feet apart WTF

  • lymis

    It’s NOT a “huge loss for the Republican Party.” It’s a huge victory for representative democracy.

    Reporting it the way they are makes it sound like the Democrats are taking something away from the Republicans that they legitimately held. No, they’re recovering stolen goods that should never have been in the hands of the GOP to begin with.

    • boatboy_srq

      2018: all political news coverage is horseracey BSDIism.

    • scream4ever

      But it will benefit Democrats in the race for Congress.

      • Tor

        You mean by making things a little more fair?

        • David Walker

          Should that happen, Pennsylvanian’s won’t know how to act. Fair? PA? Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

  • Natty Enquirer
    • AmeriCanadian

      Looks like one guy (on the right) is kicking the other guy (on the left) in the ass.

      • clay

        Goofy kicking Donald Duck.

    • The_Wretched

      And that’s why the system is broken. No democracy is functioning and has such clear rigging out in the open.

    • Stubenville

      My district. Maybe my vote will count next time.

      • Dana Stinson

        I have Ryan Costello next door. His district is batshit crazy too..

    • Treant

      The human on the right yelling at the very large cartoon dog on the left.

    • Frostbite

      Wow. If I zoom in I can see it clearly cuts across my living room!

    • friendlynerd

      It’s been described as Goofy kicking Donald Duck before.

      • Miji

        I think it’s an old lady with a baby carriage being attacked by a chicken.

  • The_Wretched

    Let’s underline the split here. 50/50 (more or less) popular vote translated into a 13/5 (72%vs27%, not 50/50) control of seats and political votes.

    When you’ve seen me rail about the system being fundamentally unfair, I get endless ‘rebuttals’ that the voters chose this government. They did not. The system is broken. That’s on the politicians and the judiciary not the voters.

    • clay

      The legislators chose their voters, instead of the other way around.

  • Natty Enquirer

    [press conference starting]

  • Hank
  • Lars Littlefield

    A bit of good news for Monday. Thanks, powers of the Universe.

  • There’s always been some gerrymandering for about as long as the US has been a country. But it wasn’t until after the 2010 census that the GOP formally launched their Red Map project.

    Their entire point wasn’t just to protect incumbents and maybe pad their seat count a little. Their goal was as many Republicans in as many seats as possible, nationwide. Fairness was not a consideration nor was any sense of adherence to the ideals of a representative democracy. They couldn’t affect the Senate all that much, but they could (and did) go after Congressional delegations as well as state legislatures. They had the most success in states like NC, PA, TX, OH, MI and WI.

    They focused hard on winning those 2010 state legislative elections, and if that didn’t happen, they’d go ahead and do an out-of-cycle redistricting the instant they acquired the means to make it happen. This then became a pretty regular practice for the Republicans, even when it just looked like they could make a pick-up or protect yet another GOP incumbent whose district suddenly became a little too “swingy.”

    I’m actually glad Obama has made redistricting reform one of his post-Presidency projects. It is essential. Because otherwise the Repukes will keep on undermining everything our system of government is supposed to stand for.

    • Ninja0980

      Yup, Red Map was a success, which was also helped by Citizen’s United.
      If you’re a local legislator, how can you handle $10,000 dollars worth of attack ads against you?
      You can’t.

      • jerry

        More like $100K, while Democrats were practicing old-style retail politics. And state-wide races, like state supreme court, governor, or attorney general races suddenly went into multi-million dollar races.

    • NowAnAgnostic

      What year did Texas do their off-cycle redistricting when all the Democrats flew out of state to avoid the vote. Was it 2003? Tom DeLay used his power to have the FAA track the flight to Oklahoma, if I am remembering right.

      • clay

        Someone sent Texas Rangers into New Mexico hotels to arrest Texas state legislators. That plan did not work out well.

    • Vista-Cruiser

      Both parties knew that the 2010 elections would determine whose maps would control for the next ten years. Republicans understandably voted en masse. But Democrats all over the US decided to sit out that election, many because “Obama hasn’t given us rainbows and unicorns, so we’re sending him a message!”

      And exactly how does that kind of “reasoning” sound from today’s perspective???

  • Cuberly Deux

    Not sure I can watch Sarah today….defending Donnie-boy for not doing a damn thing and allowing Kelly and Miller to wield power on his behalf.

    Is a reporter going to ask about the Kelly/Miller firewall?

    • Joe in PA

      Be glad you didn’t. I thought she was nastier and snarky-er, oh hell, cunty-er. than normal. AND she had an awful dress on. 🙂

      • Andymac3

        That Sister wife funeral dress has it’s own drag show somewhere.

        • Joe in PA

          LOL Prolly in Kentucky with Kim Davis impersonators. 🙂

  • AJ Drew

    My current voting map looks like a dog shitting. Apropos perhaps.

  • Blake J Butler

    “the justices say they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track.”

    Exactly what does that mean, as it is, or the ruling affects the race in May ?

    • Tread

      It sounds to me like they’ll seek out an independent commission if the GA can’t make a decision by February.

      • Joe in PA already has a plan! It will be interesting to see how this moves forward (obviously).

    • ChrisMorley

      They set a strict timetable to ensure there will be a fair, constitutional redistricting plan ready in time for the 15th May primary and their 4th point instructs how to do it fairly. Meanwhile it will work up its own version, in case they don’t.

  • Treant

    Cost them one seat? I’m…thinking that might be just a bit low.

    • The_Wretched

      It should cost them 4 seats with a par election.

    • Ninja0980

      Especially since Gov. Wolf will NOT sign a gerrymandered map.

      • Treant

        Yeah, +4 from the order, I’m thinking. Dems may take the Pennsylvania House, in which case you can then forget the Constitutional Convention we voted for.

        • clay

          If the Dems take the PA House, that means white-supremacist, right-wing tea-bagger, fundamentalist theocrat Daryl Metcalfe will no longer be charge of redistricting, and state ethics laws, and everything else he wants.

    • gaycuckhubby

      Well, it appears that the Dems were likely going to take about 4 seats no matter how the districts were drawn… this increases the likelyhood of one additional seat.
      Even that is questionable since that seat was trending Dem after the Rep has been embroiled in a sex scandal

  • John Ruff

    It’ll go right to appeal

    • The_Wretched

      State Supreme court doesn’t have an appeal when deciding State Constitutional matters. (in normal world, bizzarro land may vary).

  • Ninja0980

    Just a reminder that the 2015 election that gave the PA Supreme Court a Democratic majority made all the difference here.
    Vote as often as you can, especially in off years.

    • scream4ever

      Indeed, something I wish the Bernie or Bust crowd actually gave a shit about.

      • Andymac3

        The more Bernie or Bust crowd I come across on twitter, the more I wonder how many aren’t actually Russian trolls.

        • The_Wretched

          the actual pro-Bernie primary people have largely moved on. That was all about the 2016 election. He didn’t keep them unified as an independant force after he moved to support Hillary. The remainder is pretty much russians/bots/agonist republican trolls. That doesn’t stop the moderate dems from using them as an excuse to assault the left, however.

    • prixator
  • Gene Perry
  • scream4ever

    What about the state legislative districts, which are also heavily gerrymandered?

  • Ninja0980

    This is good news because this allows for Democratic pick ups and gives us more of a chance to take the House back.

    • Friday’s_cat

      Yeah, that’s gonna happen after the CR FUBAR.

  • Dreaming Vertebrate

    Yay!! These maps have been crudely designed by the GOP to suppress and dilute democratic votes to an unprecedented and absolutely unethical extent! This little Philly dino says good ruling by the court!

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    File this under: No Shit Sherlock.

    Seriously, one look at some of the district maps makes it clear just how manipulative gerrymandering was. That it’s taken this long….

    It’s a start.

  • gaycuckhubby
  • customartist

    District maps are Unconstitutional, and yet those Representatives elected under said illegal circumstances remain in office? So what’s the downside? Crime seems to pay?

    Similar Unconstitutional rulings have occurred TWICE in North Carolina.

  • Gianni

    Well, some good news!

  • Ann Kah

    Please work on Ohio next!