Supreme Court Clears Way for Pennsylvania to Draw New Congressional Map

Protesters for fair elections gathered outside the US Supreme Court as the court heard arguments about partisan gerrymandering on October 3.Jeff Malet/Newscom via ZUMA Press

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The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to wade into a battle over Pennsylvania’s Republican-friendly congressional map, clearing the way for a new map to be drawn in time for the 2018 midterm elections. The court’s decision is a big win for Democrats, who hope that a fairer map will help the party retake the House of Representatives in November.
Last month, the Pennsylvania state supreme court ruled that the state’s congressional map, one of the most gerrymandered in the country, violated the state constitution, and it ordered a new map in time for the midterm elections. Top Republicans in the state legislature tried to fight that ruling by asking the Supreme Court to overturn it—a longshot appeal because the ruling concerned state law.
Republicans won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats in November 2016, even though voters statewide were roughly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans in Pennsylvania have also tried to get the state supreme court to toss its 5-2 decision by alleging that one of the Democratic justices should have recused himself over comments he made opposing gerrymandering in 2015. This effort is also unlikely to succeed. As Mother Jones reported, one of the Republican justices who dissented in the gerrymandering case received a $25,000 campaign donation from Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, one of the Republican defendants in the case. The justice, Sallie Mundy, did not disclose the donation during the case, although it was reported in campaign finance filings.