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PA Supreme Court Selects New Congressional Map With 'Least Change'

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Monday, February 28, 2022   

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has picked a new congressional map after a monthslong battle between Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf's administration. Good-government groups said the plan is fair and reflective of the state.

Named the "Carter Plan," the map was one of 13 presented to the state's top court during hearings this month.

Ben Geffen, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, who argued before the court in favor of a different map, said the Carter Plan was chosen based on a "philosophy of least change" from the 2018 state Supreme Court-drawn maps.

"The map that we've been using for the last two elections is a very fair map," Geffen explained. "It's a map that gives candidates and voters from both parties a chance to see a victory in lots of different districts, so the districts aren't all so lopsided that the outcome is known before the votes are even cast at every election."

The new map does account for the state losing one congressional seat due to population loss in rural northwestern Pennsylvania. Barring legal challenges, the maps will be in effect for the May 17 primary election. A group of Republicans filed a federal lawsuit last week, saying the court is overstepping its authority in selecting a congressional map. Geffen noted it is unlikely the federal court will intervene.

Susan Gobreski, government policy committee chair for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said the polarized mapmaking process in the state highlights the need for an independent redistricting commission made up of citizens, not politicians.

"We need to look at who's drawing the maps and what rules and policies bind them and how independent they are from the political forces," Gobreski asserted. "That's going to be a priority when we enter the next phase, to look at what worked, what didn't work, and what we need to do to make sure the process is better next time."

The map gives a slight advantage to Republicans, with three seats considered highly competitive. The Department of State announced nomination petition forms are now available for congressional and statewide candidates. The last day to circulate and file petitions is March 15.


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