After declaring current and revamped maps unconstitutional, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has devised a "forced" redistricting map that not only splits Hazle Twp., but also splits the Hazleton area between the new 8th and 9th congressional districts.
The Supreme Court drew the map after Republican lawmakers and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) failed to come up with an agreement by the February 15 deadline.
Republican leaders in the state legislature said on Monday that they will challenge the map in federal court. State GOP lawmakers are expected to challenge the map in federal court, according to the Associated Press. Pennsylvania has always been seen as one of the worst offenders, with one of its districts nicknamed "Goofy Kicking Donald Duck", a reference to a cartoon image evoked by its odd shape.
In ordering the Pennsylvania Legislature to redraw the districts, the court wrote that gerrymandering has "corrosive effects on our entire democratic process through the deliberate dilution of our citizenry's individual votes". Additionally, a few other seats shifted a few more points Democratic (e.g. the new PA-1), while the new PA-17 (represented now by Keith Rothfus) shifted greatly toward the Democrats.
It replaces the previous map drawn in 2011, which they deemed unconstitutional.
But Democrats submitting their own plans have little interest in protecting Republican incumbents - and the court-appointed mapmakers might not care, either.
In an opinion earlier in February, the state Supreme Court wrote that Pennsylvania's congressional districts need, at minimum, to be compact and contiguous, to contain roughly the same number of people, and to not split counties and other communities unnecessarily.
Kelly, who lives in Butler, is now in the 16th District and the townships in eastern Butler County will now be part of the new 15th District, which was formerly the 5th District represented by Rep. Glenn Thompson of Centre County. The state Supreme Court wants the new congressional map in place for this year's elections.
Preliminary analyses of the new map showed congressional races in the state being much more competitive for Democrats. "The League of Women Voters maintains that it filed this suit in order to take partisan politics out of the Congressional redistricting process".
In one change, the 4th District is centered on Montgomery County.
Last month, the state's highest court deemed the then-current map gerrymandered.
The 11th district was historically based in the Luzerne County and known as "the Coal Cracker district", Wilkes University political science professor Thomas Baldino said. But in 2011, the region was split and the 15th district redrawn along the I-78 corridor, from the Delaware River to Hershey, including Allentown and Bethlehem but excluding Easton and Nazareth.
Candidates will be able to begin sending petitions to run in their new districts on February 27.
Republicans who controlled the Legislature and the governor's office after the 2010 census crafted the now-invalidated map, and the GOP afterward won 13 of 18 seats in three straight elections even though Pennsylvania's statewide elections are often closely divided and registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans. Washington is one of 22 states that does not give control of redistricting to the Legislature, meaning that in a majority of them the process is exclusively in the hands of the ruling party.