Pennsylvania Democrats scored a massive victory last night when they swept the three open state Supreme Court seats up for election on a statewide partisan ballot. The result is a 5 to 2 majority. Not only is this institution important because of its role as the high court of the state, but retaking it was by far the most important step toward setting Pennsylvania on the path toward progressive legislation in the coming decade.
Why? Redistricting. In Pennsylvania, a deadlocked bipartisan commission handles legislative redistricting, and for the last couple of decades when the parties failed to compromise, the partisan majority on the state Supreme Court has decided on a tiebreaker. Since Republicans held the court in 2001 and 2011, they picked a Republican who signed off on brutal gerrymanders. These maps were so bad that in 2012 the party kept its majorities despite losing the popular vote.
By winning all three seats for 10-year terms, Democrats will almost certainly be able to push through their preferred map in 2021, as we've explained previously in our more detailed background on these elections. Aside from a brief period between 1992 and 1993, Democrats haven't controlled the governorship and the legislature since 1978; by contrast, the GOP ran the entire state government from 2011 until Corbett left office early this year. So long as Democrats win the governorship at some point in the 2020s, the nation's sixth largest state has a great chance of moving to the left in the next decade.