Harrisburg, PA – On Monday, January 22, 2018, in a 4-3 decision in League of Women Voters, et al. v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the existing Pennsylvania Congressional Map adopted in 2011 under a Republican legislature and signed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett violated the State Constitution and state law. The Court ordered the General Assembly to immediately draw new maps no later than February 9, 2018. Governor Tom Wolf will then have until February 15 to approve or reject the new maps. If the legislature and governor cannot come to agreement, the Court will issue new Congressional maps that do not violate the Constitution using the body of research and testimony provided to the Court or suggested maps provided by an appellate in the case.
The decision was dramatic and will have implications on not only Pennsylvania, but also control of the United States Congress in 2019. The Court ruled
“First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.”
Secondly, the Court gave clear direction to the General Assembly on how new lines ought to be drawn:
“to comply with this Order, any congressional districting plan shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.”
The Court has instructed the Wolf Administration to be prepare to implement the new maps on February 19, 2018 in preparation for the Primary Election to be held on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. The Special Election on March 13, 2018 for the 18th Congressional District will proceed under existing district boundaries, but the Primary that follows two months later will be under the new lines.
So far the Court has refused to provide an injunction to delay its ruling as requested by the losing parties. PA State Senate Republicans have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for an stay of the PA Supreme Court order.