(Updates with map analysis and additional comment beginning in the third paragraph.)
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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday chose a congressional map submitted by a group of Democratic voters and locked it in as the state’s redistricting plan.
Pennsylvania will have 17 U.S. House seats beginning in January after losing one because of population shifts over the past decade. The configuration chosen by the court in a 4–3 decision sets up as many as five swing seats. Of the other 12 districts, six have a decidedly Republican lean, and six tilt toward the Democrats.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said the court’s choice was “a fair map that will result in a congressional delegation mirroring the people of Pennsylvania—without favoring one party.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Seth Grove (R), who introduced a map vetoed by Wolf, called the court’s decision “shamefully partisan” in a statement alleging the court put political party allegiance above the facts in the case.
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Under the new plan, the Lehigh Valley-based 7th District of Rep. Susan Wild (D) became a little more Republican-friendly, while the expansive district of Rep. Fred Keller (R) was basically dismantled.
He’s now paired with Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R), and other parts of Keller’s district were absorbed by districts now held by Republicans Dan Meuser and John Joyce—potentially setting up a race between two Republican incumbents, unless someone retires.
The map also made the districts of two Democrats, Matt Cartwright and Conor Lamb, a little more favorable for their party, though both districts probably will be highly competitive in November. Lamb is running for the U.S. Senate.
The court chose a map drawn by Jonathan Rodden, a Stanford University redistricting expert. It was submitted by a group of individual Pennsylvania voters represented by Elias Law Group LLP.
The court considered over a dozen congressional map proposals submitted by lawmakers, advocacy groups, and citizens.
Common Cause Pennsylvania was among the groups that submitted maps.
“While we are disappointed that our proposed map was not selected, we believe that the Carter plan successfully holds most of the state’s communities of interest together, includes reasonably compact districts, and likely will produce a congressional delegation roughly in line with the preferences of voters across the state,” Ben Geffen of the Public Interest Law Center, who represented Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali and other petitioners, said in an emailed statement.
Justices Debra Todd (D), Sallie Updyke Mundy (R), and Kevin Brobson (R) dissented on the map selection. All four justices who supported the map choice were elected as Democrats.
In addition to setting the congressional district boundaries, the court’s order maintains the state’s May 17 primary and changes the deadlines for candidates in statewide and congressional races to file petitions. Those candidates now have from Feb. 25 through March 15 to file that paperwork to get on the ballot.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court took over the state’s map-drawing process because the Republican-led state legislature and Wolf couldn’t agree on a redistricting plan.
A special master from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, appointed by the higher court, had recommended the congressional plan approved by Republican lawmakers but vetoed by Wolf.