Pennsylvania Republicans didn’t invent gerrymandering, but they are now trying to perfect it by creating gerrymandered judicial districts to seize control of state courts. They’ve announced plans to reintroduce their proposed constitutional amendment requiring Supreme Court justices and judges of the Superior and Commonwealth courts to run for election in newly created judicial districts. The Republican legislature would create these districts and disallow the current statewide popular vote of judicial elections.

Their plan is to create 31 different districts of varying size. This will prevent voters from having an equal vote in the selection of judicial candidates and politicize judicial elections. They did this in 2011 with congressional redistricting and created U.S. Congressional districts that almost guaranteed their success in future elections.

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that their congressional districts as drawn were contrary to the one person-one vote principle of elections. When the Republican legislators declined to agree to this principle, the court drew up new congressional districts for 2018 and future elections until at least the next census. Republican legislators are now attempting an end run against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by gerrymandering the judicial branch of state government. They are quietly attempting to amend the state constitution to allow legislative control of state judicial districts.

They are frustrated that the PA Supreme Court ended their gerrymandered congressional districts that resulted in 13 Republican seats of 18 total seats in 2016 with a popular vote margin of under 9 percent. In 2018, they lost the popular vote margin by 10.3 percent and still won nine of 18 seats. In 2020, they won the popular vote by 1.3 percent and again won nine of 18 seats.

This effort by state Republican legislators to seize control of the judiciary will prevent current judges from seeking retention solely due to where they live and erode confidence in the independence of the judicial branch. Voters must vote against this proposed amendment to the state constitution as an unwarranted power grab by one political party. It may be on the ballot as early as this spring.

MICHEL WILCOX

Cochranton

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