Pennsylvania court approves new congressional map giving Dems a chance in 2018

UPDATE 2 — 3/19, 5:04 p.m. EDT: In separate cases, the U.S. Supreme Court and a Pennsylvania district court ruled Monday the state’s newly redrawn congressional map will remain in effect for at least the time being, giving six House Democratic candidates a better chance to prevail in November’s mid-term elections.

The lower court lawsuit was brought by 10 Republican legislators from the Keystone State on the both the federal and state levels, whom the court ruled do not have sufficient legal standing, while GOP leaders from Pennsylvania’s state legislature filed a request for the Supreme Court to block the new district lines from going into effect.

 

UPDATE — 2/22, 12:47 p.m. EST: Republican state legislators in Pennsylvania are challenging the new court-approved congressional map, filing an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday evening.

In an emergency filing with Justice Samuel Alito, state House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati argue the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling, “blatantly usurps the power of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and inflicts confusion on the Commonwealth’s upcoming congressional elections.”

“The court’s process was entirely closed,” the appeal continued. “It did not allow the parties the opportunity to provide any comment to the proposed map, inquire on why certain subdivisions were split and whether it was to meet population equality, or further evaluate whether partisan intent played any role in the drafting.”

 

One month after ruling current legislative districts “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state’s constitution, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved a new congressional map on Monday.

The ruling follows proposals submitted to justices for consideration from Gov. Tom Wolf, state House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, all of which were rejected by the court.

In a 4–3 ruling the state’s Supreme Court ruled their new congressional diagram:

“Is composed of congressional districts which follow the traditional redistricting criteria of compactness, contiguity, equality of population, and respect for the integrity of political subdivisions.”

Under Pennsylvania’s new map, drawn by Stanford Law School Professor Nathaniel Persily, the newly-created districts are virtually aligned with existing county boundaries, with 13 counties split among multiple districts.  The previous map had nearly twice the number of districts spread out among multiple districts.

The state’s previous congressional districts were redrawn in 2011 amid charges from Democrats of gerrymandering.

A lawsuit filed by 19 plaintiffs in June 2017, the League of Women Voters and 18 state-wide complainants charged the district layout violated freedom of expression.  The suit also alleged it discriminated against voters’ political viewpoint.

A decision which some political analysts say clearly favors Democrats, the state’s GOP has vowed further legal action to halt the execution of the new map.

Pennsylvania’s existing congressional delegation consists of 18 members.  Thirteen of the seats are occupied by Republicans; the five remaining seats are held by the Democrats.  According to political analyst David Wasserman, Democrats now have a chance to win more than nine House races in 2018.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court didn’t just reverse the Republicans’ gerrymander, they went further by helping Democrats compensate for their natural geographic disadvantages in the state,” said Wasserman. “Democrats are clustered in terms of their voters in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but the choices that the Supreme Court made in adopting this map tend to help Democrats versus what they might expect from a random or neutrally drawn map.”

President Trump’s tissue-thin victory in the Granite State was considered instrumental in his securing the White House in the 2016 presidential election, defeating Hillary Clinton by roughly 50,000 votes.

The new congressional map is scheduled to go into effect before the May 15 primaries and will not effect a March special election to replace now-resigned GOP Congressman Tim Murphy, which Republican Rick Saccone is favored to win according to the latest polls.

President Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning to comment on Monday’s ruling:

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

 

[Reuters] [Philly.com] [WHYY] [RealClearPolitics] [Wall Street Journal] [Photo courtesy New York Times]