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Editorial: Pa. GOP doesn't want level playing field
What do Pennsylvania’s Republican lawmakers have against fair political representation?
Plenty, from the appearance of recent maneuvers by party leaders.
For example, GOP officials are again asking the Supreme Court to strike down the state’s recently redrawn political maps.
Party leaders say the maps — first ordered, then drawn by state Supreme Court judges — unfairly favor Democrats. Of course, the maps were put in place to correct previous GOP-drawn districts, which unfairly favored Republicans.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but there is nothing wrong with the districts now in place; they are markedly fairer than the blatantly partisan Republican doodlings.
Still, Pennsylvania Republicans are petitioning the Supreme Court to review the maps — for the third time. Talk about not taking a hint.
Meanwhile, state leaders continue to debate how Pennsylvania will draw future political maps. There too, state Republicans are moving to secure partisan advantage. The scheme: Tying a wholesale change in how state judges are elected to a pending redistricting bill.
Under a proposed amendment to the state constitution, which passed in the state Senate this month in a near party-line 31-18 vote (two Republicans joined all 16 Democrats in opposition), state appeals court judges would be elected by district, rather than statewide.
The state would be broken into nine Commonwealth Court districts, 15 Superior Court districts and seven Supreme Court districts. The same commission that decides new congressional and state maps would draw up the judicial maps.
And as we’ve pointed out, that proposed 11-member commission — made up of four appointees from each party and three from the governor’s office — does little to provide the sorts of guarantees against party meddling that a true citizens panel would ensure.
All of which has raised understandable concerns.
“This is going to result in one-party control of the appellate courts forever,” state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, told the Associated Press, calling it ironic that the redistricting bill was the vehicle to “gerrymander the courts.”
State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, told the AP the amendment was retaliation for the court-drawn congressional districts.
It’s hard not to see it that way. Recall, one of many Republicans’ first reactions to the new districts was to call for impeachment of the Democratic judges.
The hypocrisy of the proposed Republican power grab would be startling were it not so characteristic. GOP leaders complain that the current statewide elections result in disproportionate representation of judges from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia — as opposed to the disproportionate representation of Republicans in Congress (a 12-6 majority) in a state where Democrats hold an enrollment advantage statewide.
Fortunately, the measure would need to pass both state houses twice before coming in front of voters for final approval. That provides time for voters to educate themselves on the proposal, push back on their representatives and, if necessary, defeat it themselves.
That’s important. Between Supreme Court rulings, voter-led lawsuits against the previous maps, and court-mandated rewrites, it seems efforts to keep Republican thumbs off the scales when it comes to legislative districts need to come from outside of Harrisburg, rather than within.