The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday released a new congressional district map to be used for the 2018 elections for U.S. House seats.Its plan splits only 13 counties. Of those, four counties are split into three districts and nine are split into two districts. By contrast the most recent map, enacted in 2011, split 28 counties. It also includes significant changes to the state map, including dividing Philadelphia into only two congressional districts; currently three House members represent parts of the city. In another win for local Democrats, the fourth district is centered on Montgomery County. Critics of the map adopted in 2011 often pointed to Montgomery County, which was split into five districts in that plan and had no member of congress living in the county. Bucks, Chester, and Delaware counties also receive districts based largely on their areas.
“The Remedial Plan is superior or comparable to all plans submitted by the parties, the intervenors, and amici, by whichever Census-provided definition one employs,” the court wrote in its order. It also wrote that the plan is “superior or comparable” to the various map proposals on the average compactness of districts and that each district in the map has an equal population, plus or minus one person.
The new map comes after weeks of political and legal fighting following the state high court’s ruling that the map adopted in 2011 was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
But don’t expect the map to end the battle. Even before Monday’s order, Republican lawmakers were vowing to challenge in federal court whatever map the court selected. The decision to take the mapmaking into the court’s own hands, they argued, usurps the line-drawing power that the U.S. Constitution gives to state legislatures.And the court did not give them enough time to enact a new map.