The best thing that can be said about a new Republican-drawn congressional map for Pennsylvania is that none of the districts resembles a cartoon character. But erasing the lines of a comically gerrymandered district dubbed “Goofy kicking Donald Duck” was not enough to satisfy an order from Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, said Tom Wolf, the state’s Democratic governor, on February 13th. When the court ruled on January 22nd that the map in use since 2011 was an extreme partisan gerrymander that violates Pennsylvania’s constitution, it gave legislators until February 9th to send Mr Wolf a fairer map. The redrawn districts, the court advised, should be “composed of compact and contiguous territory” and should not gratuitously divide cities and counties. Curiously, the initial order said nothing about fixing the map’s skew toward Republican candidates, which has afforded their party a reliable 13-to-5 advantage in a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Adhering to the court’s words (in a 139-page opinion made on February 7th) while subverting their spirit, Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania House and Senate set to redrawing the map with no input from Democrats. The resulting map is “prettier”, wrote Sam Wang, a professor at Princeton, on the the Princeton Election Consortium, an elections blog, but “conceals ill intent”. In rejecting the proposal, Mr Wolf said in a statement that it “clearly seeks to benefit one political party”. Moon Duchin of Tufts University ran the numbers: “There is no more than a 0.1% chance”, she wrote in a submission to the governor, that a plan meeting the court’s requirements “would have been as favourable to Republicans” as the new map. It is, she concluded, “extremely, and unnecessarily, partisan”.