The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map today, saying it “clearly, plainly and palpably” violates the state Constitution.
The justices ruled 4-3 just days after hearing oral arguments in the case.
State legislators are being given an opportunity to redraw the map in time for the May 15 primary election, subject to the governor’s approval, and file it with the court by Feb. 15.
But the decision also invites “all parties and interveners” to submit their own proposed replacement maps. If lawmakers can’t make it happen on time, the justices will choose a new map based on the court record.
The order requires the new map to divide the state’s voters into districts that are contiguous and have equal populations, which federal law already requires. But the districts also have to avoid dividing political jurisdictions like counties and municipalities, which isn’t a legal mandate but is recognized as “best practice” in redistricting.
Eighteen registered Democrats — one for each of the state’s districts — claimed the congressional map violates multiple parts of the Pennsylvania Constitution, including its free expression clause, because it discriminates against them for their political viewpoint.
The case names Republican legislative leaders as defendants because the GOP controlled the General Assembly, and thus redistricting, the last two times maps were drawn.
Drew Crompton, chief counsel for Senate Republicans, says they will seek a stay of the decision and are encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s granting one in a similar case out of North Carolina.
Mimi McKenzie represents the plaintiffs and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. The organization initiated the lawsuit before being dropped for lack of standing. In a conference call with reporters, McKenzie referred to the map as “one of the worst gerrymanders in American history.”
A separate, federal lawsuit out of Pennsylvania is also before the nation’s top court, along with similar matters from Wisconsin and Maryland.
WITF’s Katie Meyer and WHYY’s Lindsay Lazarski contributed to this report.