Pennsylvania Supreme Court tosses congressional map

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The 2018 midterm elections may be more challenging for Republicans in Pennsylvania, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered on Monday.

Pennsylvania, considered a closely divided swing state, has 18 congressional districts. Democrats hold only five of those districts, which critics have claimed points to partisan gerrymandering, in which district lines are drawn to favor a political party. According to Reuters, the current map was drawn in 2011 by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Reuters further reportsThe court gave lawmakers until Feb. 9 to redraw the boundaries. [Democrats] would likely have a much better opportunity to pick up several seats in their quest to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republicans.

In a split decision, the court’s five Democratic members said the congressional map “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.”

The two-page order said the legislature’s proposed map would go to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf for his approval. If lawmakers do not submit new lines by Feb. 9, or if the governor fails to sign off by Feb. 15, the court said it would adopt its own map, based on the evidence presented during a one-week civil trial in December.

The court’s two Republican members both dissented, with Chief Justice Thomas Saylor writing that the court should have stayed the matter until the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue. That court is expected to rule by June on a similar gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin.

The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, relied on the state constitution, which means the court’s decision cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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