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How the Pennsylvania GOP is Trying to Increase Their Control of State Courts


She added, “It is way too much control for one branch to have over another branch, particularly where one of its charges is to reign in the excesses of the legislative branch.”

If the Republican bill becomes law, Pennsylvania would become just the fifth state in the country, after Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Illinois, to wholly map its judicial system into electoral districts, according to the Brennan Center. And other states may soon join Pennsylvania in trying to remake the courts through redistricting.

Republicans in the Texas Legislature, which is also controlled by the G.O.P., recently introduced a bill that would shift districts for the state appellate courts by moving some counties into different districts, causing an uproar among state Democrats who saw the new districts as weakening the voting power of Black and Latino communities in judicial elections and potentially adding to the Republican tilt of the Texas courts.

Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, called the bill a “pure power grab meant to keep Blacks and Latinos from having influence on courts as their numbers in the state grow.”

These judicial redistricting battles are taking shape as Republican-controlled legislatures across the country explore new restrictions on voting after the 2020 elections. In Georgia, Republicans in the state legislature are seeking a host of new laws that would make voting more difficult, including banning drop boxes and placing sweeping limitations on mail-in voting. Similar bills in Arizona would restrict mail-in voting, including barring the state from sending out mail ballot applications. And in Texas, Republican lawmakers want to limit early voting periods.

The nationwide effort by Republicans follows a successful four-year drive by the party’s lawmakers in Washington to reshape the federal judiciary with conservative judges. Led by Senator Mitch McConnell, until recently the majority leader, and Mr. Trump, the Senate confirmed 231 federal judges, as well as three new Supreme Court justices, over the former president’s four-year term, according to data maintained by Russell Wheeler, a research fellow at the Brookings Institution.

In a state like Pennsylvania, which has two densely populated Democratic cities and large rural areas, this could give outsize representation to sparsely populated places that lean more conservative, particularly if the legislature resorts to a gerrymandering tactic similar to one used in Pennsylvania in 2011.

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