PA Supreme Court Overturns Congressional Map

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital

 

This morning, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s Congressional District map as being unconstitutional and ordered that a new plan for the 18 Congressional districts in the state is to be redrawn.  Five of the seven Supreme Court Justices ruled that the maps were unconstitutional.  And four of the seven Justices ordered that the maps be redrawn in the next few weeks.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has until February 9 – 18 days from now to redraw the lines. Governor Tom Wolf has until February 15 to sign off on this plan.  If the legislature fails to meet its deadline and/or Governor Wolf fails to sign off on the plan submitted to him, the PA Supreme Court will create their own map based on information received by the lower, Commonwealth Court.

The state is then expected to publish the new districts by February 19 and, if necessary, readjust the election petitioning process to ensure that the May 15, 2018, primary takes place as scheduled.

This decision is based on Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  In its order, the state Supreme Court used words directly from our state constitution describing why creating districts based on partisan association is unconstitutional.

I located the order from the Supreme Court.  The case is known as League of Women Voters et al. v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.  Here’s the statement that says the current map is unconstitutional.

First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act
of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.
Accordingly, its further use in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States
House of Representatives, commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary, is
hereby enjoined.

And using text from the state Constitution, the Court mandates that the new map be redrawn to the following specifications:

Fourth, to comply with this Order, any congressional districting plan shall consist
of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly
equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city,
incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure
equality of population.

If the PA Senate GOP appeal to the US Supreme Court to stay this decision is turned down, all 18 districts will be redrawn. This includes the highly gerrymandered PA’s 7th Congressional District (aka “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck”) in the southeast and the 12th Congressional District (aka “The Hammer”) in the southwest.

Here’s what the current Congressional District map looks like with 13 Republicans and 5 Democratic US House Representatives.  There are many possibilities as to what the new, non-partisan districts might look like.  Stephen Wolf has presented one possible non-partisan alternative that could result in as many as 11 or as few as 6 Democratic Congressional seats.  The revised map will almost certainly differ from this initial idea designed by a single, non-elected person. But it does show that it is possible to create a non-partisan district map.

 

Pennsylvania_Comparison_2018 potential non-partisan districts

Current Gerrymandered and Hypothetical Nonpartisan Pennsylvania Congressional Districts. Attribution: Stephen Wolf https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/22/1733876/-Huge-Court-strikes-down-Pennsylvania-s-GOP-congressional-gerrymander-and-orders-a-new-map-for-2018

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania for taking the lead in this case.

 

Voting Restriction Rulings in Just One Week

vote button

Go Vote Button

I’m reblogging Nel’s New Day article on voter restrictions today.  It is an excellent commentary on the increasing denial of voter access and voter suppression around the United States. Nel has done a good job of summarizing the methods designed to reduce voter turnout, including gerrymandering, mandatory photo ids, reduced early voting, and elimination of same-day voter registration in states that had previously allowed this.

Another source for this information is The Brennan Center for Justice. It has an excellent report on the current status of voting and elections in the US. This report is titled “The State of Voting in 2014” and covers both the voter suppression issue as well as an increased access to the ballot in some states.

Sixteen states have passed laws increasing access to the ballot since 2012; eleven of these states’ new laws will be in effect on November 4. Interestingly five of these eleven “progressive” states — Illinois, Nebraska, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia — also enacted more restrictive voter laws.  The most common forms of laws that increase access to the ballot include online voter registration and other methods to modernize voter registration (like being able to have your voter registration move with you) plus methods to increase access to early voting.

So read  Nel’s blog below and then head on over to the Brennan Center for Justice for more information.

And remember to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

 

Nel's New Day

Marriage equality didn’t stop for last weekend. Alaska, the first state to ban marriage equality in 1998, now legally recognizes same-sex marriage after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess of the U.S. District Court of Alaska issued his ruling. The Republican governor plans to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court which legalized marriage equality in Nevada and Idaho last week.

Meanwhile, last week saw a rollercoaster of court decisions about voter suppression laws. In passing these laws, the GOP has openly declared that the reason for photo IDs required for voting is to keep Democrats from have their rights at the ballot box. With fewer than 31 fraud cases in over 10 years, the number of legitimate voters kept from voting has vastly increased.  Joy Dunn, 79, is an eligible voter who found out that new laws had disqualified her vote after her absentee ballot in March’s Arkansas…

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SCOTUS Awards LGBT Rights; Davis Fights for Women’s Rights

A great summary of what’s happened in Texas and Washington, DC today. Like my blog on Senator Wendy Davis this morning, Nel’s New Day highlights two successes within 24 hours – one for women and one of all loving, committed same-sex couples who have had their relationships legally recognized as marriage in now 13 states as well as several countries around the world (since the US Government recognizes marriages that are conducted as a legal marriage in a different country). This has been a day of celebration in the War on Women and against homophobia. THANKS to everyone who made this happen.

Nel's New Day

Forty years ago, homosexuals were mentally ill. Ten years ago gays and lesbians were criminals. Today LGBT people can legally marry the people they love. Yesterday was the day that my partner and I celebrate as our anniversary because marriage equality is illegal in Oregon. It was our 44th anniversary. Without the same Social Security benefits that legally married people receive, my partner has lost well over $100,000. We don’t know how much we have lost in other benefits because of the discrimination against same-sex couples.

The Stonewall riots, hailed as the dawning of the gay rights movement, started in New York’s Greenwich Village on June 29, 1963, also 44 years ago. But today is a new day because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1996 federal statute defining marriage as between one woman and one man.

Listening to the U.S. Supreme Court as they dribbled out their rulings…

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Corporations’ Excessive Tax Breaks

This is a great report on how corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes!

If we can also overturn Citizen’s United and gerrymandering, then I believe part of the issues raised here could be dealt with. If corporations are no longer treated as “people,” they would no longer be able outspend real live people in electing and talking to our representatives.  We’ll still have to deal with their paid lobbyists, but at least we can reduce their influence to some extent on who is elected in our own back yards.

Nel's New Day

While you faithfully paid your taxes by yesterday, 26 major American corporations that made $205 billion in pretax profits paid nothing in federal corporate income tax between 2008 and 2011. In 2011 corporations paid a 12.1 percent effective tax rate, the lowest in four decades. Corporations want to have the same rights as “persons,” but real persons can’t have the tax advantages of corporations.

Corporations get tax breaks when they…

Break the law: BP’s toxic mess in the Gulf of Mexico or Wells Fargo’s abusive lending practices that cost tens of thousands American families their homes were fully deductible.

Fall on hard times: When corporations lose money, they can use these losses not only to fully offset taxes for that year but also carry those losses into the future for up to seven years.

Face no income threshold: After Superstorm Sandy devastated millions of American families, they picked up the…

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