On Wednesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion explaining the legal reasoning behind its January 22 decision to strike down Pennsylvania's congressional districts as the product of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
"Gerrymandering contributes to the political polarization and dysfunction in this country and is a threat to our democracy". "This signals there is a second front in the war on partisan gerrymandering through the state courts". It should not come as a shock that Justice Alito, who hears emergency requests from the federal circuit encompassing Pennsylvania, turned down Republicans' demand to get involved in a state-law question over which the nation's highest court has no jurisdiction.
The decision comes as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to allow lower federal court decisions in two other gerrymandering lawsuits in North Carolina, and Wisconsin to stand. They are: U.S. Rep.
"This was always a Pennsylvania state court case about Pennsylvania's Constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court rightly refused the Republican Legislative leaders' attempt to manufacture a federal issue", said R. Stanton Jones, a partner at Arnold & Porter, the law firm that argued the case for the League of Women Voters. In 2016, Democrats won each of their five House seats with an average of 75 percent of the vote, while Republicans' margin of victory was an average of 62 percent across their 13 districts.
Democrats didn't bat much of an eye at the impeachment filing. The state now has divided power, with the Legislature controlled by Republicans and a Democrat, Wolf, in the governor's office. "By placing such voters in districts where their votes are cast for candidates destined to win (packing), the non-favored party's votes are diluted. Indeed, for our form of government to operate as intended, each and every Pennsylvania voter must have the same free and equal opportunity to select his or her representatives".
The court accepted that other factors "such as the preservation of prior district lines, protection of incumbents, or the maintenance of the political balance" have historically been used during redistricting.
There are so many moving parts in this story, we are likely to see more twists and turns before the Court approves a new map for the 2018 congressional elections. They pointed to Bush v Gore, the 2000 case in which the Supreme Court effectively put George W. Bush in the White House, as a precedent for the justices policing state elections. "At another point, in King of Prussia, it remains connected by a single steak and seafood restaurant". It's undemocratic and just plain wrong. The current map, drawn by the PA GOP majority in 2011, has been a subject of national ridicule for districts that were drawn in a way to clearly favor Republican candidates.
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One expert developed two algorithms and computer-generated 500 redistricting plans with each algorithm.
The state Supreme Court called for new maps on January 22, less than a week after hearing oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters on behalf of voters from each of the state's 18 congressional districts.
Beyond that, Republicans were unable to articulate any good reasons for how the districts ended up the way they did.
The case affects only the state's congressional districts, which are established by legislation.
In sum, the court found that "in its disregard of the traditional redistricting factors, the 2011 Plan consistently works toward and accomplishes the concentration of the power of historically-Republican voters and, conversely, the corresponding dilution of Petitioners' power to elect their chosen representatives".
In making its assessment, the court looked to the standards set by the state constitution to draw state legislative boundaries as a model for determining when US congressional districts are constitutional.