Judges’ re­dis­trict­ing de­fies con­sti­tu­tion

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist Low­man S. Henry is chair­man & CEO of the Lin­coln In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Opinion Re­search.

The Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court has trig­gered a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis with the grow­ing pos­si­bil­ity that one or more of the jus­tices may stand be­fore the state Se­nate in an im­peach­ment trial. The specter is un­par­al­leled in the re­cent his­tory of the com­mon­wealth and re­flects the re­cent politi­ciza­tion of the high court. At im­me­di­ate is­sue is the court’s ut­ter dis­re­gard for the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States, the Penn­syl­va­nia state con­sti­tu­tion, will­ing­ness to in­ter­fere in the leg­isla­tive process, and aban­don­ment of cen­turies of prece­dent.

The jus­tices first struck down a district map which had pre­vi­ously passed scru­tiny by the state Supreme Court. It then or­dered the leg­is­la­ture to vi­o­late not only its own rules of pro­ce­dure, but also con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions to pro­duce a new map with­out any pub­lic in­put or even a vote by its mem­bers. It then, with no con­sti­tu­tional author­ity, hired an ac­tivist col­lege pro­fes­sor from Cal­i­for­nia to draw a new map which it ar­bi­trar­ily or­dered adopted.

This un­prece­dented se­ries of events oc­curred be­cause many Democrats, who re­main apoplec­tic over the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, con­cluded they could not win con­trol of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives un­der the cur­rent set of district maps in place in the var­i­ous states. They then set about chal­leng­ing maps tar­get­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, Wis­con­sin, North Carolina and sev­eral other states.

The maps un­der which Penn­syl­va­ni­ans elected our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion have been in place since 2011. The maps were drawn ac­cord­ing to all ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tional, ju­di­cial and leg­isla­tive guide­lines and rules of pro­ce­dure. That reg­u­lar or­der of busi­ness re­sulted in dis­tricts that elected a solidly Repub­li­can con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion.

But the purpose of re­dis­trict­ing is not to guar­an­tee out­comes. It is to pro­vide for dis­tricts that are vir­tu­ally equal in pop­u­la­tion. The 2011 map did just that, but then the cur­rent Supreme Court bench made up new stan­dards — found nowhere in any con­sti­tu­tion — to strike down that map.

Ev­ery con­gres­sional district map is ger­ry­man­dered to some de­gree based on the par­ti­san lean­ings of the per­son or group of peo­ple draw­ing the lines. Cer­tainly the 2011 map was ger­ry­man­dered. But an anal­y­sis of the map in­sti­tuted by the Supreme Court finds it is even more highly ger­ry­man­dered than the map the court de­clared to be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

What we have learned is that Democrats are bet­ter than Repub­li­cans at putting lip­stick on a pig. The new map looks more com­pact — but com­pact­ness does not mean the map wasn’t drawn for par­ti­san ad­van­tage. In that re­gard the court’s map is more highly ger­ry­man­dered than the one they struck down.

The court’s overt par­ti­san acts have set up a con­sti­tu­tional show­down with the Leg­is­la­ture. This is ac­tu­ally the sec­ond time (the first in­volved en­vi­ron­men­tal rights) the Supreme Court has tram­pled the state con­sti­tu­tion and ap­pro­pri­ated unto it­self leg­isla­tive pow­ers. If the jus­tices get away with this, then they will have ef­fec­tively ren­dered the leg­is­la­ture pow­er­less.

Vot­ers, un­for­tu­nately, will have lit­tle say in the mat­ter. State Supreme Court Jus­tices are elected for 10-year terms, and then stand for re­ten­tion rather than re-elec­tion. The of­fend­ing jus­tices in this case are just two years into their terms. Likely eight years from now the cur­rent ker­fuf­fle will be to­tally for­got­ten by the elec­torate.

So, un­less the Gen­eral As­sem­bly wishes to turn them­selves into gov­ern­men­tal eu­nuchs they have no choice but to im­peach the of­fend­ing jus­tices. State Rep. Chris Dush has in­tro­duced an im­peach­ment res­o­lu­tion which is get­ting se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion by leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of­fered his bless­ing say­ing im­peach­ment is a con­ver­sa­tion that must be held.

We now stand at a fork in Penn’s Woods. Will we be gov­erned by a con­sti­tu­tion and three branches of gov­ern­ment that re­spect and abide by the sepa­ra­tion of pow­ers it es­tab­lishes, or will the black robed ban­dits of the state Supreme Court steal the power of the leg­is­la­ture — and ul­ti­mately the power of We the Peo­ple — in a brazen plot to change the na­tion’s con­gres­sional ma­jor­ity?

Stay tuned.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.