Citing that the current congressional district map is unconstitutional, while giving no specific examples to identify what constitutional provisions are being violated, the Pa. Supreme Court ruled 4-3 ordering that the map be redrawn for the 2018 election cycle.
By Feb. 9, the General Assembly is to produce a new district map that needs the approval of both the legislature and Gov. Wolf. The approved map will then be presented to the court by Feb. 15. If a new map cannot be agreed upon, the court will create one to be implemented by Feb. 19.
Justices Debra McCloskey Todd, Christine Donohue, Kevin M. Dougherty and David N. Wecht issued a per curiam order and said that an opinion is to follow. In its order, the court said that the new map shall consist of “congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population."
Justice Max Baer filed a concurring and dissenting statement. While agreeing that the lines are unconstitutional, he says, “I believe the dangers of implementing a new map for the May 2018 primary election risks ‘[s]erious disruption of orderly state election processes and basic governmental functions.’”
Justices Saylor and Mundy filed dissenting statements. Justice Saylor says, “I hold the view that restraint is appropriate, particularly in light of the timing of the present challenge to a congressional redistricting plan that was enacted in 2011 and the proximity of the impending 2018 election cycle. Justice Mundy adds, “I write separately to express my concern with the vagueness of the Court’s order…This vagueness by the Court is problematic because the parties raise several state constitutional claims, including the Speech Clause, the Free Association Clause, the Elections Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause, each of which has a different mode of analysis.”
A special election is slated to take place in the 18th district on March 13. “If a new map is indeed implemented for the 2018 election, voters in this district would be electing a representative in March in one district while nomination petitions would be circulating for a newly-drawn district, which may or may not include the current candidates for the special election,” wrote Justice Baer.
Republican stakeholders will seek a stay of the Jan. 22 order from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Will the map be redrawn by the General Assembly? Will Gov. Wolf approve? Or will the Pennsylvania Supreme Court draw the congressional map? PAMED will continue to monitor this issue closely and will keep you apprised of this and other topics.