A view of the Pennsylvania State Senate at the Capitol in Harrisburg.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Pennsylvania GOP takes gerrymandering in an unfortunate direction


It’s not easy to choose the nation’s most outrageous example of congressional gerrymandering, but Pennsylvania has to be among the most ridiculous.

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After the 2010 census, the state legislature’s Republican majority took an evenly divided state, drew up 18 congressional districts, and put 13 of them in safely GOP hands. The result was tough to defend: in 2012, for example, Democratic congressional candidates received 51% of the vote in Pennsylvania, but only 28% of the power.

The state Supreme Court rejected the current map last month, saying it “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. The ruling added that the Republicans’ gerrymandering has had “corrosive effects on our entire democratic process through the deliberate dilution of our citizenry’s individual votes.”

GOP state legislators didn’t take this well – they tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, and when that failed, they threatened to impeach the state Supreme Court justices who ruled against their gerrymandered map – but the process is moving forward.

It’s just not moving forward in an especially constructive direction.

On Friday, Republican leaders in the legislature submitted their new map for the governor’s approval…. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania voters, the new districts show just as much partisan bias as the old ones. […]

From a partisan standpoint, in other words, the new map is almost exactly like the old one.

The Washington Post’s analysis noted that Donald Trump out-performed Hillary Clinton in 12 out of Pennsylvania’s 18 districts. Under the newly submitted Republican alternative, Trump would also receive more votes in 12 districts – by “virtually identical” margins.

The GOP map unveiled late Friday now goes to Gov. Tom Wolf (D) for scrutiny, with a formal response expected this week. If the Democratic governor rejects it – which is a definite possibility – the state Supreme Court has vowed to take the lead in drawing its own map in consultation with independent redistricting experts.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico two weeks ago that he’s confident about his party’s chances in this year’s midterms. “I think it starts with the congressional lines,” Stivers said, effectively admitting that gerrymandering tilts the playing field in Republicans’ direction, regardless of voters’ wishes.

Some of those lines may soon be changing, however, in one of the nation’s most competitive battleground states.

Gerrymandering and Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania GOP takes gerrymandering in an unfortunate direction