A panel of federal judges Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the new congressional map imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, ending one of two challenges to the map and increasing the chances it will stand for the looming elections.
The map was imposed February 19, four weeks after the court ruled Pennsylvania's existing map violated the state constitution's guarantee of "free and equal" elections by marginalizing Democratic vote counts through extreme gerrymandering.
The new maps appear more compact and suburban than the existing district boundaries and an alternative that state legislative Republicans had submitted and one of those districts is now made up of just Montgomery County, a Democratic stronghold that the GOP had proposed dividing heavily.
This is a developing story.
The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to set a legal standard for partisan gerrymandering in two cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland. "These are things that, on the present record, we can not do".
The new map, which now nearly certainly will be the lines under which candidates will run in 2018, also handed Democrats a series of opportunities including at least three seats in southeastern Pennsylvania and several more improved opportunities in places like Allentown and southwestern Pennsylvania. "Now, Pennsylvania must move forward and work together to enact nonpartisan redistricting reforms", Wolf said.
The judges also seemed to be debating whether they should intervene at all, given the similar challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The previous map was drafted to aid Republican candidates and proved to be a campaign victor for them, leading the GOP to a 13-5 edge in the state's congressional delegation for all three elections in which it was used.
This doesn't guarantee a win for the state's Democratic party in these new districts, of course.
The special election last week for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District was held under the old map.
The Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court had ruled in January that a map Republicans crafted in 2011 amounted to an unconstitutional gerrymander. Six incumbents, five of them Republicans, have said they will not be on the fall ballot.
The state Supreme Court then imposed a new map that many outside experts said still gave Republicans an edge but created more competitive districts and some more districts that are expected to favor Democrats. A stay would have resulted in the use of the 2011 map for this year's congressional elections in Pennsylvania.
In a brief statement released Monday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito offered no explanation but said the court is denying the request by the Republican leaders of the General Assembly to halt the plan. That appeal could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.