Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices on Wednesday interrogated lawyers defending the way the state’s congressional districts were drawn, a map opponents have challenged as illegally shaped to benefit Republicans, who hold a majority of its seats in the U.S. House. Based on the tenor of their questions, a majority of the court, which has five Democrats and two Republicans, appeared open to the argument that Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are illegally gerrymandered. A group of Democratic voters has asked the court to overturn the map and order a new one drawn before the 2018 elections, in one of several such lawsuits nationwide. The justices, while acknowledging that politics played a role in the boundary-drawing, must decide whether those political concerns crossed the line and deprived Democratic voters of their constitutional rights.
“A test has, I think, eluded every court that has tried to grapple with this,” Justice Max Baer, who ran as a Democrat, said at one point during the 2½-hour hearing. Over and over, justices asked attorneys for the 18 Democratic voters who brought the suit and the leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature what the test should be.
Whatever the court’s decision, it will have implications for this year’s midterm elections, when forecasts indicate Democrats have an outside chance of retaking the House. The justices are expected to rule within the next few weeks.