Can courts be gerrymandered?
MARSHA H. BIERLY
“Gerrymandering” has been used by legislators in Pennsylvania to draw district lines limiting the power of voters.
All three statewide courts may become gerrymandered. The House of Representatives will reintroduce a constitutional amendment requiring Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Commonwealth Court judges to be elected by regional districts, not statewide.
The rationalization of the amendment is to increase the geographic diversity of the courts and encourage election of judges from outside the major metropolitan areas. By requiring one judge per district, the amendment theorizes that all parts of the state will have “representation” on the appellate courts.
To most voters this sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, the proposed amendment would not guarantee that all voters will have equal opportunity to elect their judges.
This amendment could become reality with some serious consequences for our system of justice.
The courts have diversity. Of the 29 judges elected and serving on the appellate courts, 15 Republicans and 14 Democrats, nearly two-thirds are women.
The rationalization for the Amendment does not reflect reality.
All may lose their right to seek retention if this proposal becomes law. Some could be removed from office based on where they live.
To appear on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, the proposal must pass again in the 2021-22 session.
If approved by Feb. 28, it will appear on the Primary Election ballot in May 2021.
Voters should say NO to stop the attempt to gerrymander our courts.