Democrats can expand their majority on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, but GOP wants to gerrymander it

Democrats can expand their majority on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, but GOP wants to gerrymander it

Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but they could strengthen their grip further in November because Republican Justice Thomas Saylor will hit the mandatory retirement age of 75 this year, creating an open seat.

At least two Democrats and one Republican who currently sit on the Superior Court, the more prominent of the state’s two intermediate appellate courts, are already running for Saylor’s seat, while the AP reports that one GOP judge on Pennsylvania’s other appellate court, the Commonwealth Court, is considering. Primaries are scheduled for May 18, though state parties will convene before then to consider endorsements, which could clear the field on either side.

Democrats won a trio of races to flip the court in 2015, which opened the way for a string of decisions protecting voting rights, including a major ruling in 2018 that struck down the state’s GOP-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander. Those rulings have, however, ignited unending fury from Republicans, who have abandoned the compact at the heart of every democracy and ceased to regard the court as legitimate.

To strike back, they’ve proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively gerrymander the Supreme Court as well as the Superior and Commonwealth courts by electing judges via districts—that they would draw—rather than statewide. There’s a good chance Republicans will place the measure on the ballot this year, though even if voters pass it, it would not impact elections this fall.

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