HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is imposing a new congressional district map for the state’s 2018 elections, meeting its deadline to do so and likely setting up a challenge from Republicans.
Monday’s order means a new map is to take effect in the May 15 primary.
If it stands, the revised map is almost certain to improve Democrats’ chances in more seats this year.
The Democratic-majority state high court ruled last month that Pennsylvania’s district boundaries were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Republicans have won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in three elections under the invalidated map, although statewide elections are often closely contested.
The new map won’t apply to March’s special election in southwestern Pennsylvania’s 18th District.
Most significantly, the new map sets up a Republican incumbent, Keith Rothfus, to have a Democratic challenger, which could be Connor Lamb, and it sets up a Democratic incumbent, Mike Doyle, to face a Republican challenger, which could be Rick Saccone.
It also creates an open seat in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Governor Tom Wolf applauded the court, saying he respects their effort to remedy Pennsylvania’s “unfair and unequal congressional elections.”
Independent analysts say Pennsylvania’s new court-ordered map of congressional districts should improve Democratic prospects but the map still favors Republicans as a whole.
An analysis conducted Monday through PlanScore.org concluded the state Supreme Court’s redrawn map eliminates “much of the partisan skew” favoring Republicans on the old Republican-drawn map. It shows the reconfiguration leaves the map with slight GOP favoritism.
PlanScore was created by political scientists, legal scholars and digital mapmakers to analyze gerrymandering.
University of Florida political science doctoral student Brian Amos analyzed the court’s map and found Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Republican Donald Trump in eight of 18 districts in the 2016 presidential election. That’s compared with six of 18 districts Clinton won in 2016 under the invalidated map.
Republicans say they’ll go to federal court this week to try to block new court-ordered boundaries of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts from remaining in effect for 2018’s elections.
Top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said Monday a separation of powers case will form the essence of the GOP’s argument. Crompton won’t say whether Republicans will go to a district court or the U.S. Supreme Court or what type of legal remedy they’ll seek.
But the case will involve making the argument the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and governors, not courts, the power to draw congressional boundaries.
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