Pennsylvania’s Republican-drawn congressional map is an illegal partisan gerrymander that “is utterly unresponsive to — and often flouts — the will of voters,” a new lawsuit filed Thursday alleges.
In 2011, Republicans in several big states used their control of state government to draw maps that benefited their party. But the effort in Pennsylvania may have been the most effective.
The map, which was drafted and approved by the GOP legislature and signed by then-governor Tom Corbett, has allowed Republicans to win 13 out of the state’s 18 congressional districts in all three of the elections in which it’s been in use. In those elections, GOP candidates won only around half the two-party vote. In 2012, they won under 49 percent.
The Pennsylvania map was notable for the particularly irregular shapes created by the district lines—often a sign of partisan manipulation. One independent mapmaker called it a “monstrosity—certain to be a poster-child for further gerrymandering studies.”
A lawyer for Senate Republicans called the suit “baseless” and said the GOP would fight it, the AP reported.
In a 2004 case, the Supreme Court made it difficult for courts to stop gerrymanders unless they involve racial discrimination claims. The court is considering whether to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s state legislative districts that could allow it to set standards for when purely partisan gerrymanders are illegal.
The plaintiffs in the case are the League of Women Voters’ Pennsylvania chapter, and Democratic voters in each of the state’s congressional districts.
Image: 1812 cartoon showing a district created by Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry to favor his Democratic-Republican party. (Creative Commons)