PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In a very short two-page opinion, the state Supreme Court struck down the current configuration of the state’s 18 congressional districts as, “clearly, plainly, and palpably in violation of the state Constitution.”
Democrats and some academic scholars have argued for years that the Republican-drawn districts are an example of extreme partisan line-making.
That’s because the districts have elected 13 Republicans out of the 18 even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in the commonwealth.
“Districts need to be drawn that are compact and contiguous, and not drawn to benefit one political party over another. And when they do that, it ultimately undermines our democracy,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.
Under the court order, the Republican-controlled state legislature has until Feb. 9 to submit new district lines that don’t discriminate on the basis of party registration and are compact and contiguous and do not divide counties or municipalities unless necessary to make districts of equal population.
Meghan Schiller’s Report:
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, hailed the decision, saying, “I strongly believe that gerrymandering is wrong and consistently have stated that the current maps are unfair to Pennsylvania.”
But Senate Republican majority leader Jake Corman called the court decision a “partisan action showing a distinct lack of respect for the Constitution and the legislative process.”
The court order could impact this area big-time where four of the five local congressional districts were drawn to elect Republicans.
Shapiro hopes state lawmakers can design a non-partisan map.
“I would hope the legislature would come together, would do this work and would draw districts that are compact and contiguous and comport with the rule of law,” he said.
If the legislature cannot come up with a compromise map, the court said it would impose its own map in time for this year’s congressional elections.
One exception, the March 13 special election between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb will go on in the current district.
Some Republican leaders said Monday they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it’s not clear on what basis.
Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa called on legislative leaders to meet quickly, and he and promised to submit his own map before the week ends.