HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s high court issued a new congressional district map for the state’s 2018 elections on Monday, potentially giving Democrats a boost in their quest to capture control of the U.S. House unless Republicans can stop it in federal court.
The map of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts is to be in effect for the May 15 primary and substantially overhauls a Republican-drawn congressional map widely viewed as among the nation’s most gerrymandered. The map was approved in a 4-3 decision, with four Democratic justices backing it and one Democratic justice siding with two Republicans against it.
Most significantly, the new map likely gives Democrats a better shot at winning a couple more seats, particularly in Philadelphia’s heavily populated and moderate suburbs. There, Republicans had held seats in bizarrely contorted districts, including one labeled “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck.”
Democrats quickly cheered the new map, which could dramatically change the predominantly Republican, all-male delegation elected on a 6-year-old map. The new map repackages districts that had been stretched nearly halfway across Pennsylvania back into compact shapes and reunifies Democratic-heavy cities that had been split by Republican map drawers.
“It remedies the outrageous gerrymander of 2011, and that’s the important thing, that the gerrymander be over,” said David Landau, the Democratic Party chairman of Delaware County, which was ground zero for the “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck” district. “All that zigging and zagging is all gone, and it makes Delaware County a competitive seat now.”
Republican lawmakers said they will quickly challenge the map in federal court, arguing that legislatures and governors, not courts, have the constitutional responsibility to draw congressional maps.
It’s the first time a state court threw out congressional boundaries in a partisan gerrymandering case. Registered Democratic voters and the League of Women Voters originally sued last June.
Republicans appear to face an uphill battle in federal court.
Michael Morley, a constitutional law professor at Barry University in Florida, said federal courts are normally reluctant to undo a state court decision.
“I think it will be major obstacle and a major challenge to get around it,” Morley said.
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