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Chester County Press

Editorial: This cartoon has been canceled

02/27/2018 12:52PM ● By Richard Gaw
For the past several years, Pennsylvania had been considered the Gerrymandering Capital of the United States, and for good reason. The boundaries of its congressional map resembled a child’s work on an Etch-a-Sketch, whose sole purpose was to maintain a heavy Republican advantage that helped lead to the GOP to win 13 of 18 seats in three consecutive elections. The worst of those boundaries was the Sixth District, including Chester County, which has been criticized for its peculiar shape, likened to “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck.”

But now that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s redrawing of the congressional map is in effect for the May 15 primary and subsequent November election, it has become the new face of a continuing controversy. Supporters say that the new map levels the political playing field, opening the door to Democrats to compete in – and perhaps win -- 18 congressional races this year, on their way to taking back state control of the House of Representatives.

Supporters say that the new congressional map compensates for the Democrats' natural geographic disadvantages in the state, where solid votes can be counted on in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but in very few districts between the two bookend cities.

Those opposed claim that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has invented a constitutional crisis, and with the worst possible timing, given that crucial primary and midterm elections are this coming November.

While opinions vary according to party, the facts outweigh opinions, and the facts are that the redraw has the power to affect –and potentially undermine – the immediate political future of several rising legislators in Pennsylvania. Most prominent among them is Republican Rep. Ryan Costello, who is currently serving his second term as U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania's Sixth Congressional District, which includes portions of Berks, Chester, Lebanon and Montgomery counties.

While Costello was first elected in 2014 by a Republican-leaning constituency that was largely “captured” by the redrawn confines of the Sixth District, the boundaries of his new constituency edge to the left, and include Reading, a Democratic-leaning city. 

Top Statehouse Republicans have pledged to challenge the judicially enacted map, which they say amounts to an illegal overreach by the Democratic-majority court. Costello expressed his anger for the Supreme Court's new map, calling it “political corruption” and “1,000 percent partisan” that has, in Costello's opinion, created a Democratic gerrymander.

Whether it’s an injunction, temporary restraining order or an effort to impeach Supreme Court judges, challenging the Supreme Court's redrawing could be a valiant fight, but one that would clearly smack of hypocrisy.

Arguing whether or not courts have the authority to draw a map under the U.S. Constitution is a filibuster for the truth: The very reason the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stepped in was to solve a problem that the Republicans themselves created, one that the Supreme Court ruled “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violated the state's Constitution. The Republican plan, the court wrote, was “aimed at achieving unfair partisan gain” and “undermines voters’ ability to exercise their right to vote in free and ‘equal’ elections, if the term is to be interpreted in any credible way.”

Now is the time for our Republican legislators to put away their political axes, and get on with the governing of everyone in their redrawn districts. For Costello, it will be an opportunity to reach out and get to know the citizens of Reading, no longer as the sweepstakes winner in a biased cartoon show, but as the unified leader he and his Republican colleagues aspire to be.