The governor of Pennsylvania has rejected a congressional map proposed by leaders of the state legislature, leaving the fate of district boundaries in limbo as candidates prepare for the 2018 midterm elections.
A new congressional map of the state would likely benefit Pennsylvania Democrats and boost the Democratic Party’s chances of retaking the U.S House of Representatives.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has turned down a new congressional district proposed by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state legislature, stating that the proposed lines are still just as gerrymandered as the old map.
“As non-partisan analysts have already said, their map maintains a similar partisan advantage by employing many of the same unconstitutional tactics present in their 2011 map,” Wolf stated Tuesday, according to WTAE.
“The analysis by my team shows that, like the 2011 map, the map submitted to my office by Republican leaders is still a gerrymander. Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party, which is the essence of why the court found the current map to be unconstitutional.”
It’s not totally clear what will happen next. Wolf left the door open to working on a compromise with Republican lawmakers in the state on a new map. Democrat leaders have also expressed interest in drawing their own map in conjunction with Wolf’s office.
If an agreement is not reached, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will produce its own congressional map by Feb. 19.
The fight for what a new congressional map will look like began in January when the state Supreme Court, determining that the current map unfairly favors Republicans, ruled it unconstitutional and ordered a new map to be redrawn.
Following the 2010 elections, a GOP sweep year, Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania redrew the congressional map. Democrats had long argued that the lines unfairly favored the GOP. Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation is currently made up of 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats, despite what critics argue is a more even split of conservative and liberal voters in the state.
With midterm elections this year swiftly approaching, and primary contests in the state happening in May, the battle over district lines has left Pennsylvania candidates totally unaware of where they will be campaigning.
“I officially announced my candidacy back in September and I’ve been working extremely hard, raising funds, meeting people, building a campaign organization since that time. All of a sudden, a few weeks ago, the court steps in and basically puts everything into a place of chaos and confusion,” state Rep. Stephen Bloom told The Western Journal.
Bloom, a Republican member of the Pennsylvania state House, is running to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta in the state’s 11th congressional district. Currently, the 11th district stretches across eastern Pennsylvania, covering large swaths of rural areas and encompassing several much-discussed pivot counties.
However, Bloom is unsure what his new district will look like when everything is said and done, leaving him a candidate unaware of where to actually campaign.
“It certainly is an unprecedented and different kind of campaign experience than anything I’ve ever encountered.”
Bloom, along with many Republicans in the state, thinks that redrawing a map to the Democrats’ satisfaction is a difficult task given that Democrat voters self-segregate, choosing to live in small, urban areas, while Republican voters are spread out geographically across the state’s rural communities.
“Almost no matter how you break up the districts in Pennsylvania, you’re going to end up allowing for a lot of Republican-majority districts just because of the geography of where people have chosen to live and reside. The only way you can spread those Democrats concentrated in the cities out, to create more Democrat-leaning districts, would literally be to gerrymander them, to split those cities and attach different chunks of the cities to outlying suburban areas,” the Republican candidate explained.
However the maps are drawn, it will surely favor Democrats in the state and aid the Democratic Party’s quest to retake control of the House of Representatives.
A map concocted by Gov. Wolf’s office or the state Supreme Court, political analysts argue, could pave the way for Democrats to gain an additional three to four seats. To retake control of the U.S. House, national Democrats will need to pickup a total of 24 seats — a hard task, but something that is certainly possible.
Jason Hopkins is The Western Journal’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.
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