In a 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected a new congressional map last Wednesday that will pit two GOP incumbents against each other. The high court selected the so-called Carter map, which was drawn by a Stanford professor, and proposed by Democratic plaintiffs. The court’s two Republicans, Kevin Brobson and Sallie Mundy, dissented as did Democratic Justice Debra Todd.
The state loses a seat, going from 18 to 17 Congressional representatives, to account for Pennsylvania’s relatively stagnant population growth in U.S. Census findings over the past decade, particularly in rural areas predominantly represented by Republicans.
The new map makes few changes to Pennsylvania’s existing congressional map as commissioned by the PA Supreme Court in 2018. Online opinion poll site FiveThirtyEight shows that at least eight districts would likely remain in Republican hands, while at least six would likely go to Democrats. The remaining three will likely be toss-ups.
The most significant change to the newly-drawn map is that the districts of U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-15, and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-12, were drawn to intersect in central Pennsylvania. However, Keller announced that he would run in the newly drawn 9th District instead, which will pit him against fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser. According to the U.S. Constitution, members of the U.S. House must live in the state they represent but do not need to live in the district.
The map also creates two districts in the Pittsburgh area with no incumbents.
In a joint press statement, Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, said they believed only the plan their caucus had drawn — and that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed — would have been fair.
“Only the map submitted by House and Senate Republicans followed all Constitutional guidelines, went through a deliberative legislative process and was endorsed by a judicial body,” they wrote. “Sadly, candidates and voters must now submit to a unilateral court that sees itself above every person in our Commonwealth.”
Unless the federal court intervenes, the Primary Election will occur on May 17. A group of Republicans has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court doesn’t have the authority to select a congressional map.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also decided to adjust the petition circulation period for Congressional and statewide candidates. The circulation period will run from Feb. 25 through March 15. The circulation period for legislative candidates has yet to be determined.