Draw the line: Gerrymandering is no good

By Duke Staff


Life usually isn’t fair, but voting in Pennsylvania may just become a bit fairer.

On Jan. 22, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision that threw out the current map of Congressional districts for being unconstitutionally gerrymandered. 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. One district was so egregious it was nicknamed “Goofy kicking Donald Duck,” because that’s exactly what it looked like.

The PA Supreme Court gave lawmakers until Feb. 9 to make a new map. Instead of going back to the drawing board, they initially refused to even consider it, instead appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, who sided with the Pennsylvania judges’ verdict earlier this week.

Now, Republican lawmakers are threatening to impeach the judges over the issue and just days before the deadline, have finally began to work on a plan. If no legislative plan is proposed by Friday that would receive approval from Gov. Wolf by Feb. 15, the court will draw their own map.

For the uninitiated, gerrymandering refers to the practice of lawmakers drawing congressional districts in such a way to limit competition between parties. For instance, in Pennsylvania, there are one million more Democrats than Republicans, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Yet, in 2012, PA Republicans won all but five Congressional districts, while losing the popular statewide vote by over one percent. Additionally, in past presidential elections, Pennsylvania usually goes blue, yet the state legislature swings overwhelmingly red.

That doesn’t add up.

This argument comes just as political tensions are beginning to heat up. Even though the decision will not affect the special election on March 13 in PA’s 18th District, midterms are fast approaching, and speculation from pundits states that the PA GOP’s reluctance to redraw the map potentially reflects on a fear that Democrats may have a better shot at victory.

In other words, if the lines were drawn more fairly to reflect the million person difference, Democrats actually might have a fighting chance.

The fact that the PA GOP wants to avoid creating fairer districts that allow their constituents to be represented more accurately because they are afraid of being unseated is heinous. Legislators are elected by the people, and for the people. They are not meant to cling to their title by whatever means possible.

This effort to finally redistrict is a positive move, and the Court’s decision was a smart one. Opposing partisan gerrymandering is something everyone, regardless of political affiliation, should get behind. It’s undemocratic and just plain wrong. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton warned about “the tyranny of the minority,” the fear of a few small voices dominating the large and that is what gerrymandering brings us. Not the will of the people, but the will of whoever draws the lines.