By Rebecca Stokem, National News Writer
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently declared the state’s congressional district map unconstitutional. The court rejected the previous map, drawn by Republican legislators following the 2010 census, claiming that it followed illegal gerrymander practices rather than “traditional criteria.” The court has redrawn a new map following its desired criteria, which has created more compact districts.
The previous map drawn by lawmakers did not follow the court’s stipulation of “compactness,” and instead used oddly shaped, abstract districts that favored Republican votes. The former map, formulated after the 2010 census, gave Republicans a two-to-one advantage during elections, despite the relatively even amount of registered Republican and Democratic voters in the state. The court order claims that the new map “is composed of congressional districts which follow the traditional redistricting criteria of compactness, contiguity, equality of population, and respect for the integrity of political subdivisions.” The new 2018 court map certainly appears more compact; a Washington Post analysis explains that the new districts eliminate more than 1,100 extraneous miles of borders drawn by Republicans that would give them an advantage. The redrawn 2018 Congressional map includes 1,908 miles of internal boundaries between districts, in sharp contrast to the 3,047 miles of boundaries within the previous arrangement. The new districts ensure that its members have geographic location more in common, and reduces the amount of counties and municipalities that were previously divided along the borders of old districts. A majority of states in the U.S. require congressional districts to be as compact and clearly defined as possible, to ensure that voters have geographic proximity to voting stations when casting their vote for district, state, and nationwide elections.
The newly drawn districts could help Democrats win Congressional seats during the 2018-midterm elections. As a frequent swing state, Pennsylvania’s new districts have caused some controversy between the parties. Pennsylvania’s Republican leaders have promised to challenge the new map, claiming the redrawing to be an abuse of power. State Senate President Joe Scarnati, and state House Speaker Mike Turzai said in a statement, “We anticipate further action in federal court” with regard to the new borders, although to date the Supreme Court has not accepted the party’s appeals.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 27th print edition.
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