Good Law | Bad Law #71 - Is This The End To Partisan Gerrymandering In PA? W/ Ben Geffen

Aaron Freiwald, Managing Partner of Freiwald Law and host of the weekly podcast series Good Law | Bad Law, is joined by Ben Geffen, an attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, to talk about the recent landmark “gerrymandering” case in Pennsylvania.  Ben is one of the lawyers behind this historic Supreme Court case.


This case, a blow to partisan gerrymandering, not only has led to a redrawing of the Congressional map in Pennsylvania, but may contribute to more wide-ranging political change in the midterm elections this November.


Throughout our conversation, Ben details the normal process in which Congressional district lines are redrawn every ten years after the census.  The census determines how many seats a state has in Congress based on population shifts since the previous census.  That information is used in the drawing of district lines to ensure that each district is given an equal vote.


The political party in charge of the state legislature always has the upper hand in how district lines change, but when redistricting becomes more overtly partisan and is done in a way to lock in one party’s electoral advantage over the other party, then that can be unlawful.   Partisan gerrymandering often uses  “packing and cracking.” As the lines are being drawn, the opposing party’s voters will either be “packed” into a single district, giving that party a major advantage, or “cracked”, meaning that they will be spread thinly and separated into surrounding districts.


Though this happens everywhere, Pennsylvania’s Republicans took redistricting to a new level of partisanship in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled a few weeks ago.  Since then, Republicans consistently have won 13 of the 18 seats in the state even though there were times when they only earned 48% of the votes.


In January, the PA Supreme Court ruled the Republican-drawn maps violated the Pennsylvania Constitution in favor of the Republican Party and ordered the district lines be re-drawn.  (Just last week, The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an 11th hour Motion to Stay filed by the Pennsylvania’s State Republican leadership.)


Listen in as Aaron and Ben discuss gerrymandering in the US, specifically how it is affecting PA and its districts, as well as Public Interest Law Center’s involvement in the case.


Click here to see the old and new district maps:


Remember to tune in every Friday for new episodes of Good Law | Bad Law!


Host: Aaron Freiwald

Guest: Ben Geffen