GOP Voter Suppression Attempt Gets Shut Down In Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed a U.S. House district map that was sent from the state legislature, with the backing of Republicans, for his signature. That map appears to have been previously described by Pennsylvania state Rep. Seth Grove (R) as an “8-8-1 map,” meaning that it would supposedly work out to containing eight Republican-leaning seats, eight Democratic-leaning ones, and a single spot that could more easily go either way. Wolf, however, has previously insisted that the map hands a “disproportionate number of seats to Republican candidates when compared with Pennsylvania voters’ preferences.” Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential race, finishing with a little over 50 percent of the vote.

In his formal message announcing his veto of the proposed Congressional district map, Wolf said that it “fails the test of fundamental fairness,” adding that it “does not deliver on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections.” Wolf also cited specific areas that he said appeared to be unnecessarily split between districts in order to improve electoral prospects for Republican candidates; these splits included areas in Luzerne, Dauphin, Philadelphia, and Chester counties, he said. Wolf also criticized, more specifically, that the proposed map would “unnecessarily create noncompetitive districts unresponsive to Pennsylvania political trends and prevailing voter preference.” Wolf also singled out the fact that Democratic members of the state legislature were largely shut out of the process of formulating the proposal and sending it through its stages of passage; at present, Republicans control both chambers of the Pennsylvania state legislature.

Now, the Pennsylvania Congressional redistricting process appears to be left to the state judicial system. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that a state court dealing with the matter “will host hearings Thursday and Friday to consider 14 different proposals” and “could issue a ruling as soon as Jan. 30 — the original deadline it set for Wolf and the legislature to come to an agreement — but redistricting observers expect the decision to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.” The state Supreme Court in Pennsylvania currently has a majority of Democratic picks.

Elsewhere, at least two Congressional district maps that were put forward by Republican state officials have already been overturned. Affected areas include Ohio and Alabama; in the latter case, a three-judge panel on a federal appeals court agreed with those behind legal challenges to the map that a more appropriate set-up would appear to require an additional district with a Black majority or something very close to it. Although Black residents are over one-fourth of Alabama’s population, state officials gave just one Congressional district out of seven to a Black majority. Elsewhere, legal challenges are continuing, and the problems are glaring. In Texas, for instance, state officials gave two new U.S. House districts to white majorities, even though non-white residents were responsible for the overwhelming majority of the recent population growth that gave Texas those seats.