Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday rejected a new proposed map for the state’s congressional districts, saying the legislature's top Republicans submitted an unconstitutional gerrymander.
“Partisan gerrymandering weakens citizen power, promotes gridlock, and stifles meaningful reform,” Governor Wolf said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “As non-partisan analysts have already said, their map maintains a similar partisan advantage by employing many of the same unconstitutional tactics present in their 2011 map.”
Republican leadership submitted the redrawn map to Wolf on Friday. From there, Wolf had until this Thursday to to tell the state Supreme Court whether he approved of the map. If he did, it would be enacted. The legislature and the governor need to come to an agreement by Thursday or the state's Supreme Court will do the redraw.
Citing a number of nonpartisan analysts on Tuesday, however, Wolf said: “Like the 2011 map, the map submitted to my office by Republican leaders is still a gerrymander. Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party, which is the essence of why the court found the current map to be unconstitutional."
This quick process, reshaping the heavily gerrymandered districts of Pennsylvania that had favored Republicans for years, all began on January 22. On that day, the state’s Supreme Court decided that the current Republican-drawn map was unconstitutional and set in motion a multiple-week sprint to redraw all of the state’s 18 districts.
Republicans in the state were initially not thrilled with this new task. They appealed their own state’s court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to to delay the mandated redrawing. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito denied the request last week without even referring it to the entirety of the court.
What’s more is that Joseph Scarnati, the top Republican in Pennsylvania’s Senate, said he was going to refuse the court order to redraw the map. And another top Republican, Rep. Cris Dush, went as far as to say he wanted Democrats on the state’s highest court to be impeached.
Amid all of this chaos, Gov. Wolf remained undeterred as he attempted to hear the input of his colleagues and citizens around the state.
“My job is to figure out what a fair map is,” he told The Daily Beast in an interview earlier this month in the Harrisburg State Capitol. “And I have a team of people including a mathematician from Tufts, mapmakers, people who will know—be able to help me figure out whether as objectively as possible, this is a fair map.”
Wolf also embarked on a tour of the state to hear what his constituents would specifically want out of a new map. He described an active audience that was engaged and ready to have a redrawing that made more sense—instead of districts that are not contiguous and carved into oblong shapes.
“People are fed up and very cynical about all the things that people have done over the years to manipulate our democracy,” Wolf said.
He views this opportunity as a means to uphold a greater democratic tradition and is happy to be given the opportunity.
“We are here to promote good policies, but we are also stewards of a grand democratic tradition,” Wolf said. “We’ve forgotten that second part. We need to argue, debate, discuss, hurl insults at each other and we have to come up with good public policies. We’re also here to make sure that this democratic system, this system of self-government, continues to evolve, develop and get better. I think the thing that has become the epitome of that is gerrymandering. Pennsylvania is probably as bad, maybe worse, than most other states.”