Three federal judges — all appointed by Republicans — and conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito have essentially slammed the door on any remaining challenges to the state’s revamped congressional districts.

Monday’s denial of appeals at both levels means the maps the state Supreme Court rolled out late last month will almost certainly be the maps used in the May primary and November general elections.

Pennsylvania voters now know what district they will be voting in. In the Valley, district numbers will change and some voters, namely those in and around Sunbury and southern Northumberland County, will shift into the newly formed 12th District, which is where Tom Marino will run. Voters in Montour County and the eastern portion of the Northumberland County — namely the coal region — will now be part of the 9th District.

Over the next few weeks, voters must educate themselves about a new pool of candidates, some of whom may be unfamiliar. We will work to help Valley voters get a solid grasp on the candidates with ongoing coverage.

We are glad a final decision has been made and we can all move forward. The clock’s been ticking for a while.

“This victory is for the voters,” said Susan Carty, president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, who initiated the original legal challenge. “Voters deserve the right for their voices to be heard regardless of party affiliation or address. This victory is an important first step toward slaying the gerrymander.”

The question now is what happens in 2020? Constitutionally, the task of redrawing the maps following the next census is still the duty of the state Legislature. If Republicans are in power, will the same thing happen again? And what if Democrats win, will the lines shift to create dominant Democratic districts?

The answer to the latter two questions is the same: Yes.

That is why between now and the redistricting following the 2020 census, Pennsylvania must find a way to replace and repair how congressional districts are mapped in the commonwealth. 

Until the process changes, the results will always remain potentially partisan.

“Pennsylvania must move forward and work together to enact nonpartisan redistricting reforms,” Gov. Tom Wolf said.

This involves creating a nonpartisan entity with voices from across the political spectrum. These must be independent voices, as recommended by Fair Districts Pa., who can offer reasonable and unbiased ideas regarding redistricting. 

If the state doesn’t move forward with these corrective measures, we are going to end up with the same problem again and again.

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