In a major victory for national Democrats, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a sweeping new congressional map of the state that offers more competitive districts and will likely send more Pennsylvania Democrats to the U.S. Holike use of Representatives.
The new map comes after the state Supreme Court in January ruled the old map — devised by Republican leaders in 2011 — unconstitutional because it unfairly gerrymandered districts to help elect GOP candidates.
After the Republican-led legislature and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf failed to reach a compromise on a new map by Feb. 15, the Pennsylvania high court issued their ruling. The court, made up of a majority of Democrat judges, devised a new map that has been described as a dream come true for Democrats.
The state has 18 U.S. House districts. In the past three election cycles, Republican candidates have won 13 of these 18 seats. Additionally, President Donald Trump carried 12 of the districts on the old map, despite winning the state by a thin margin.
Democrats have long argued this arrangement is unfair given how much more competitive statewide elections in Pennsylvania tend to be.
The new map will likely even out this disparity. Analysts have concluded that the court-drawn map only provides 10 Trump-won districts, paving the way for congressional Democrats to gain up to three to four seats.
Democrats have hailed the results.
“This is pretty close to a Democratic wet dream,” Christopher Nicholas, a Pennsylvania Republican consultant, said in a statement to Politico.
“If everything goes right, it could really provide national Democrats a boost and more or less gives them a head start in reclaiming the majority,” stated Mike Mikus, a Pennsylvania Democratic consultant. “This map is good news for Democrats.”
“If you’re at the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) right now, you’re pretty happy today,” said another GOP consultant in the state, Mike DeVanney.
However, the battle may not be over.
This is first time in history a state court has thrown out congressional boundaries in a gerrymandering case and devised their own districts. Republican lawmakers are likely to take the fight to federal court.
“Implementation of this map would create a constitutional crisis where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is usurping the authority of the Legislative and Executive branches,” according to statements from State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and state House Speaker Mike Turzai.
“This map illustrates that the definition of fair is simply code for a desire to elect more Democrats.”
A majority of the new gains come from the Democrat-rich Philadelphia area. Several red-leaning districts have also seen new Democrat voters get placed in their boundaries.
Republican Reps. Pat Meehan and Charlie Dent, both retiring at the end of the year, have seen their districts turn a shade bluer. GOP congressman Ryan Costello, who already represents a competitive district, now has more Democrat voters in his district, making his re-election all the more uncertain.
GOP Reps. Scott Perry, Mike Kelly and Keith Rothfus have also been given more competitive districts, albeit still Republican-leaning.
The change has created bipartisan headache as candidates rush to learn the new district lines only days before the deadline to submit paperwork to run for office approaches. The deadline to file is next month, and primary elections are in May.
Trump has called for Pennsylvania Republicans to challenge the court’s decision.
The court decision is major win for national Democrats as they hope to use the midterm elections to take back the House majority. In order to do so, they will need a net gain of 24 seats. The new districts in Pennsylvania will certainly boost that effort.
The decision has left one Obama administration alum celebrating.
“Governor Wolf’s rejection of a map last week that would have continued Republican gerrymandering highlights how important it is that we elect more Democrats who will fight for fairness,” said former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder has become more politically active since leaving the Justice Department. The first attorney general to have ever been found in contempt of Congress now leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a progressive organization that battles Republican-drawn district lines across the U.S.
“Republicans all over the country should be on notice — their days of partisan map-rigging are numbered,” Holder warned.
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