Gerrymandering is a much discussed topic these days for those concerned about voting rights. There are a few high-profile court cases across the country, including one awaiting decision that was argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania's highest court ruled on January 22 that the state's U.S. House District maps violated the state constitution due to Republican partisan gerrymandering, and struck them down.
This was one of the most closely watched gerrymandering cases in the country. In every election since the state map was redrawn by Republicans in 2011, Republicans have won the same 13 of the state's 18 congressional districts , despite Pennsylvania voting for President Obama in 2012 by over 5 percent and only barely favoring President Trump in 2016 by less than 1 percent.1
Or, as Vox explains:
To get a sense of how powerful Pennsylvania's gerrymander was, consider that, in 2012, Democratic candidates won slightly more votes in US House elections and Barack Obama won the state. But the state's 18 House seats didn't split 9-9 between the parties — instead, Republicans won 13 seats there, and continued to win them for the rest of the decade.2
While the New York Times plays down the significance of this ruling3 because the affected districts were and still will be competitive races, that is the very reason to fight against gerrymandered districts. When a district is gerrymandered to protect one party from a challenge by the other, it creates a seat whose representative is discouraged from compromise and discourse with the other party, who is insulated from listening to their constituents with opposing viewpoints. That is not representative government and that does not benefit progress.
Take a look at some of the articles reviewing the subject for a better understanding of the issue of gerrymandering, this case and the implications of the decision.
1 "Pennsylvania Court Rejects Congressional Gerrymandering." David S. Cohen, Rolling Stone, January 23, 2018.
2 "Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered House map was just struck down — with huge implications for 2018." Andrew Prokop, Vox, January 23, 2018.
3 "How Big a Deal Is a New Congressional Map for Pennsylvania?" Nate Cohn, New York Times, January 22, 2018.