(The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected a new congressional district map for the commonwealth Wednesday, adopting a plan proposed by a group of Democrat voters that favors the “least change” from current districts.
The Democrat controlled Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision to adopt the “Carter Plan” proposed by a group aligned with Democrats who sued state election officials last year amid a stalemate on congressional redistricting between the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf.
“The Carter Plan, in its constituent parts, is hereby made part of this order, and is hereby adopted as the division of this Commonwealth into seventeen congressional districts, unless and until the same shall be lawfully changed,” according to the court order, which noted dissent from Justices Debra Todd, Sallie Updyke Mundy and P. Kevin Brobson.
States use updated census data to redraw legislative boundaries every decade, and Pennsylvania’s slow population growth relative to other states resulted in a loss of one seat, bringing the congressional delegation from 18 to 17. The delegation is currently split 9-9 between Republicans and Democrats.
Matthew Gorden, attorney for the Carter petitioners, said during oral arguments that 86% of residents in the Carter Plan will remain in the same district and urged the high court to adopt the plan of “least change,” Spotlight PA reported.
The Carter Plan mostly maintains the previous congressional districts, but lumps together Republican incumbents U.S. Reps. Glen Thompson and Fred Keller into a single northern district. The plan also draws two Pittsburgh area districts without incumbents, according to The Associated Press.
Analysis by the political site FiveThirtyEight predicts the map will produce eight Republican-leaning districts, six Democratic-leaning districts and three toss-up districts, the news wire reported.
The ruling followed a recommendation by Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, a Republican assigned as a special master in the case, for the high court to adopt and implement congressional districts in House Bill 2146 as approved by the Legislature. Democrats in the General Assembly opposed the bill because they claimed they were shut out of the process, and Wolf vetoed the measure Jan. 26.
“I am pleased with today’s ruling adopting the so-called ‘Carter Plan’ for congressional redistricting. It is a fair map that will result in a congressional delegation mirroring the citizenry of Pennsylvania,” he said. “With today’s decision, we could again send to Washington members of Congress elected in districts that are fairly drawn without favor to one party or the other.”
Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, sponsor of HB 2146, blasted the decision as “shamefully partisan.”
“With the swipe of their pens, four Democrat justices from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia eviscerated the months of work the General Assembly and the citizens of Pennsylvania put into developing a fair and constitutional congressional map,” Grove said. “Obviously, the message was clear by the courts: it doesn’t matter what process the General Assembly or the people use, we care more about the opinions of partisan national groups.
“Today is truly a sad day for democracy and the founding principles of our great nation,” he said.
Other court cases involving congressional redistricting remain unresolved.
Several Pennsylvania voters, including two Republican candidates for Congress and a member of the Susquehanna County election board, sued Wolf and state election officials earlier this month to prevent the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from selecting new congressional districts and altering the election calendar.
Plaintiffs in the case filed an emergency request Monday for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to halt the decision.