Thursday, 19 July, 2018

New Pennsylvania congressional map boosts Democrats

The Supreme Court began hearing the case in October last year and could have a decision on the case sometime this year The Supreme Court began hearing the case in October last year and could have a decision on the case sometime this year
Samantha Long | 21 February, 2018, 03:59

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has enacted a new congressional district map that may be much more favorable to Democrats, replacing the one it overturned and deemed an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander last month.

Pennsylvania has a new congressional district map, thanks to the state's Supreme Court. Pennsylvania is often listed as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, and its congressional map features a number of bizarrely drawn boundaries whose only practical goal is to keep Republicans in power.

Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature have said they intend to challenge the new maps in federal court. Kennedy notes several examples of gerrymandering in the state, such as the infamous "Goofy Kicking Donald Duck" seventh district along with the fact that Erie County in the third congressional district was split in 2011 for "no apparent nonpartisan reason", placing it into the overwhelmingly Republican fifth district.

In ordering the Pennsylvania Legislature to redraw the districts, the court wrote that gerrymandering has "corrosive effects on our entire democratic process through the deliberate dilution of our citizenry's individual votes".

Federal Election Commission filings show 45 candidates had filed paperwork expressing an interest in running in just the five open Congressional seats - due to the retirements of U.S. Reps.

Political maps have come a long way since 1812, when a newly-drawn, salamander-like district in MA invoked the ire of voters.

"Today's new map virtually ensures that Dems will at least draw even in PA; a good electoral climate pushes them into majority", tweeted Dave Hopkins, a Boston College political scientist.

The court earlier this year declared the current map unconstitutional.

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The legislature was ordered to submit a new map to Wolf, who then had until last week to approve it and if they could not reach a consensus the court would issue the new map. They see the court's action as an overreach meant to ultimately pack the state's congressional delegation with more Democrats. The court said that unlike the offerings from partisan mapmakers, the districts it drew "follow the traditional redistricting criteria of compactness, contiguity, equality of population, and respect for the integrity of political subdivisions". Philadelphia remains divided into three congressional districts, with most of it split between the 2nd and 3rd Districts.

Republicans have won 13 of 18 seats in three straight elections under the now-invalidated map, despite a statewide registration edge held by Democrats. Cartwright's Republican-leaning district is virtually unchanged in terms of partisan balance. They said they didn't take partisanship into consideration at all, and ended up with a map with a relatively similar GOP advantage to the current one.

Republican Lou Barletta is running for Bob Casey's Senate seat, so a candidate in the new 9th district would want to campaign in Carbon, Columbia and Schuylkill Counties, and as far south as Berks and Lebanon counties.

Meanwhile, sitting congressmen, dozens of would-be candidates and millions of voters have to sort out which district they live in barely a month before the candidates' deadline to submit paperwork to run. However, most districts across the state are not affected by these rulings and will continue to use the 2017 map.

The previous map, shown below, split 28 counties.

However, while a professor at The University of Pennsylvania, he outlined guidelines and key questions a court should consider when it wades into the murky, political waters of redistricting.

Under the map adopted in 2011, Republicans have consistently won 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats.

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