Pennsylvania Supreme Court Throws out Congressional District Boundaries, Orders Them Redrawn

Supreme Court rules in favor of redistricting complaint

Supreme Court rules in favor of redistricting complaint

In a decision that could tilt the congressional balance of power in a key swing state in favor of Democrats, Pennsylvania's highest court decided the state's congressional districts violate its constitution and ordered the lines of all 18 redrawn in the next few weeks.

The 4-3 ruling was issued Monday in response to a lawsuit.

They also said the state court has set up an impossible deadline of February 9 to redraw the map and that will "introduce chaos in the upcoming congressional election".

Earlier this month, a federal court struck down GOP-drawn maps in North Carolina, saying Republican lawmakers violated the Constitution when they redrew numerous maps to lean so heavily in favor of Republicans.

The suit, originally brought by the League of Women Voters, contended that "in 2011 Pennsylvania elected officials manipulated the congressional district boundaries to entrench a Republican delegation in Congress and minimize the ability of Democrats voters to elect U.S. House representatives". District courts typically have been loathe to step into cases and rulings based on state Constitutions unless they are seen to violate the U.S. Constitution.

Crompton said the Legislature would begin working on a new map pending a possible stay to the state's decision.

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They also say the state court has set up an impossible deadline of February 9 to redraw the map and that will introduce chaos in the upcoming congressional election.

The Pennsylvania congressional map has been notorious since its first use, in 2012, when Republicans won (and have subsequently held) 13 of the state's 18 House seats despite losing a majority of the popular vote. The court is expected to rule by the end of June in both cases.

While much of the political world's attention Monday was focused on whether Congress would figure a way to reopen the government, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed Democrats a big win.

The court has issued new guidelines lawmakers are to follow when drawing the new legislative districts including "compact and contiguous territory; as almost equal in population as practicable; which does not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary". 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.

Given how often state and federal courts have knocked these gerrymanders down over their blatant unconstitutionality, one can wish Republicans might engage in a little self-reflection.

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