Published: Tue, January 23, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Court orders new Pennsylvania congressional district map, says it favored GOP

Court orders new Pennsylvania congressional district map, says it favored GOP

In a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the electoral map violated the state's Constitution by manipulating the district boundaries to marginalize Democratic voters, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.

The court determined that Pennsylvania's 18 House districts were redrawn in 2011 by the state's Republican-led Congress to favor their party.

The court gave the General Assembly - which remains under Republican control - until February 9 to submit redrawn lines to Gov. Tom Wolf - a Democrat - who must approve the plan no later than February 15. The court also ordered the legislature to redraw the districts and have them approved by the governor before February 15, ahead of the May primaries.

"No matter how you cut this, this is a federal court issue", said Drew Crompton, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County.

A panel of federal judges in North Carolina two weeks ago threw out that state's Republican-drawn map as illegally gerrymandered and ordered new lines drawn, a potential boost to Democrats in U.S. House races in that state.

Democratic voters sued last summer, contending that Pennsylvania's congressional boundaries were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

Democrats now hold just five of Pennsylvania's 18 House seats - despite the fact President Barack Obama carried the state twice, while President Donald Trump won it by less than one point in 2016. They say they'll petition the U.S. Supreme Court this week to halt the decision. The court is expected to rule by the end of June in both cases.

The court decision is a victory for anti-gerrymandering activists - who argued that Pennsylvania's congressional map gave an unfair partisan advantage to the state's Republican Party.

One bright light for Republicans in Monday's order is that it requires districts to be "composed of compact and contiguous territory" and that they "do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population".

Wolf, for his part, applauded the decision and said he would cooperate to expedite the new maps.

Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration is reviewing the order and assessing the executive branch's next steps in this process. The court's order did not specify how the map runs afoul of the law but said a full opinion will be released in the future. "I want to thank and compliment the attorneys and parties who brought this before the Supreme Court and helped right this obvious wrong".

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