On November 3rd, Pennsylvania will have a historic election. It will be the only time in our Commonwealth’s history that 3 Supreme Court seats will have to be filled (the last time this many seats were vacant was 331 years ago, when William Penn created the first Commonwealth Supreme Court).
The court has been controlled by Republicans since 2009 and we are still suffering the effects to this day.
So, what’s the big deal? The Republicans control both houses of our state government too. What difference is the Supreme Court going to make?
The Republicans in Pennsylvania face the same challenge that their party faces nation-wide. They are a party that is mostly old, white, and male and the party’s lynch-pin philosophy is to support the wealthy and corporations.
This pro-corporate message is not popular with most of the electorate.
Rather than change their core philosophy, the Republicans have learned how to game the system. Instead of building a larger, more inclusive party, they hold tight to their traditional voter base, get elected, and use their power to tweak the electoral system to disenfranchise anyone who opposes them.
In Pennsylvania, the Republicans were able to control the 2010 redistricting process. They proposed a radically unfair electoral map, one which granted their party drastic and unfair advantages for years to come. This skewed redistricting map was challenged all the way to the PA Supreme Court. The PA Supreme Court, which had a majority of Republican judges, was able to grant the Republicans most of what they wanted to advantage themselves.
The playing field has been so slanted by the Republicans that despite the fact that Democratic voters outnumber them across the state by 1 million voters, the Republicans hold large majorities in both houses. In fact, in Pennsylvania in 2014, approximately 50% of the votes cast were for Democrats, yet they only hold about 25% of the elected seats.
Putting a favorable bench of judges in place on the PA Supreme Court gave Republicans the power to redistrict our state in such a way that even though 20% fewer voters agree with them, they are able to disenfranchise tens of thousands (mostly Democratic) voters. Republicans do this by packing Democrats into strangely drawn districts or by sprinkling them into majority Republican districts, thus watering down their voting power.
Republicans have created seats that are so safe for themselves that – despite massive support for increasing school funding (polls found 75% support for increasing school funding) – the Republicans have so far prevented Governor Wolf from putting more money into schools.
The Supreme Court also decides on what can happen in our commonwealth on the issues of campaign finance, gun laws, voting rights, employment rights, and whether the city of Philadelphia has the power to set its own $15/hour minimum wage.
As we have seen over the last few years, Republicans are more than happy to sacrifice our schools, roads, transit, public college tuition rates and state services of all types in order to please the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
We will be unable to restore sanity until, at the very least, we have a chance to accurately register the voice of Pennsylvania voters in Harrisburg.
As long as Republican legislators get to cut the deck and a biased Supreme Court gets to rubber stamp their gerrymandered districts, this will be impossible
If you are sick of the Koch Brothers and corporations ruling our Commonwealth, then you need to vote on November 3rd!