PA Supreme Court issues new congressional maps
HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on February 19 issued new congressional district maps that are likely to be in place for the November election. The maps will have an impact on seats in Washington, DC in the federal House of Representatives.
The plan splits only 13 counties, much fewer that the plan adopted by Republicans, which split 28 counties.
Republicans in Harrisburg have vowed to challenge the maps in U.S. Supreme Court, although they also tried to get the federal court involved with the case after the State Supreme Court ruled the existing maps were unconstitutional, and at that time the federal court was not willing to get involved. The state court ruling is based on the state constitution, not the federal constitution.
Still, state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-28) issued the following statement: “Implementation of this map would create a constitutional crisis where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is usurping the authority of the Legislative and Executive branches. We anticipate further action in federal court.”
For the past three elections, voters have split roughly 50/50 between Republican and Democratic voters; yet Republicans were able to win 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats because, the state court ruled, the districts were so heavily gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.
This, the court said, resulted in a dissolution of Democratic votes, meaning that the election was not “free and fair,” as the state constitution requires. Along with new maps, the court also approved a new calendar for petition periods for candidates running for House seats, which will run from February 27 to March 20. The primary election will still be held on May 15.
It appears that the map issued by the court will move Wayne and Pike counties into a newly configured Pennsylvania Eighth Congressional District with all of Lackawanna and parts of Monroe and Luzerne counties.
Wayne and Pike are currently part of 10th District, which stretches much further into the center of the state. Wayne and Pike also have large Republican majorities. But the proposed new Eighth District will include the population centers of Scranton in Lackawanna County and Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, which have large Democratic majorities among registered voters. Further, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties overall, as well as Monroe, all have significant Democratic majorities.
If the new maps approved by Pennsylvania Supreme Court survive the promised challenge in federal court, it may be more difficult for a Republican to capture the seat that will include Wayne and Pike after the next election. Republican Tom Marino currently represents Wayne and Pike as part of the 10th Congressional District. He lives in Lycoming County, which will become part of the 12th Congressional District; that is where he will now run.