Pennsylvania Supreme Court Okays New Congressional District Map
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted a new congressional map on Wednesday that closely adheres to the state’s existing map and gives Republicans a slight electoral edge.
In a 4-3 decision Wednesday, the court chose a map that was drawn by a Stanford professor and proposed by Democratic plaintiffs.
The court also imposed a new election calendar for the May 17 primary, leaving that election day in place while moving the deadlines for candidates to file paperwork to get on the ballot.
To provide for an orderly election process, the court modified the schedule for the primary election to be held May 17, 2022, in the following respects:
- The first day to circulate and file nomination petitions is now Feb. 25.
- The last day to circulate and file nomination petitions is March 15.
- The first day to circulate and file nomination papers is March 16.
- The deadline to file objections to nomination petitions is March 22.
- The last day that may be fixed by the Commonwealth Court for hearing on objections that have been filed to nomination petitions is March 25.
- The last day for the Commonwealth Court to render decisions in cases involving objections to nomination petitions is March 29.
- The last day for the County Board of Elections to send remote military overseas absentee ballots is April 2.
The court system took over congressional redistricting after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a map passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
After two cases were filed in trial court, the state Supreme Court took control of the process and weighed multiple map proposals put forth by involved parties.
The first case, Carter v. Chapman, was filed on behalf of a group of voters in Pennsylvania seeking to ensure that new congressional districts are in place for the 2022 elections.
The second case, Gressman v. Degraffenreid, was filed on behalf of Pennsylvania voters who are leading mathematicians and scientists to ensure that the commonwealth adopts a new congressional map before the 2022 election cycle.
The congressional district map adopted Wednesday was put forward by the Carter petitioners. It divides the state into 17 districts after a district was lost following the 2020 census.
An analysis by the nonpartisan FiveThirtyEight suggests the adopted map will create six Democratic-leaning seats, eight Republican-leaning seats and three competitive seats.
Still unresolved is litigation challenging the new district maps for the state House and Senate.
Filed just last week, Benninghoff v. 2021 Legislative Reapportionment Commission challenges the state’s new legislative maps on the grounds that they are “extreme partisan outlier[s]” that favor Democrats, unnecessarily split political subdivisions and contain districts with excessive population deviations.
The plaintiff, Republican Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House, also alleges that certain House districts are racial gerrymanders because race was used as the predominant factor in their drawing without any compelling state or Voting Rights Act reason.
The petition argues that the maps violate the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and they should be replaced with maps that comply with state and federal law.
However, due to fast-approaching election deadlines, Benninghoff is requesting that the 2022 elections be held under the districts enacted in 2012.
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