February 23, 2018




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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against Republicans last month in the case of League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, deciding that the 2011 Republican-drawn congressional map was unconstitutional. This past Monday the court redrew the congressional map, creating a map that favors Democrats.


The court was presented with several witnesses and experts displaying just how partisan the 2011 congressional map really was. One witness, a political scientist from West Chester University, pointed out that the 7th Congressional District’s cartoonish shape was held together by a single seafood restaurant. The court redrew the lines and released the newly redistricted map earlier this week, a map Pennsylvania Republicans are saying is partisan in favor of Democrats.


President Trump sent out a tweet on Tuesday saying that he hopes Pennsylvania Republicans “challenge the new ‘pushed’ Congressional Map all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.” That is exactly what they did on Wednesday, arguing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court arrogated the legislature’s constitutional authority to set district lines. Odds are slim that the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case, since it already refused to hear a previous gerrymandering case out of Pennsylvania. In addition, it has already agreed to preside over four other gerrymandering cases this term.


This decision by Republicans is no surprise; the new map certainly favors Democrats in several ways. The new map makes some districts that were previously toss-ups solidly Democrat, including the seat of retiring Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA). The seats of several representatives, including Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Keith Routhfus (R-PA), are vulnerable now. The special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th that both parties have been throwing money at has been shaken up considerably, Neither the Democratic candidate, Conor Lamb, nor the Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, are part of the 18th District now. If they still plan on running in November, they have a month to file in different districts.


This may seem like a monumental boost for Pennsylvania Democrats but Sean Trende, senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, argues that while the new map certainly helps the Democrats, the impact has been severely overstated. “In an election where Democrats win all of the districts that lean Republican by three points or more – which is roughly the environment they need to win the House – this map only nets them one seat over what they would expect to win under the current map,” Trende writes. In addition, assuming a good election year for Republicans, the election results would cause the partisan makeup of the state to look pretty similar to the way it looked under the 2011 map.


However, there is no understating the surprising momentum and victories that Democrats have been enjoying so far this year. If that trend continues into November, then it will most likely be a good election year for Democrats, who need to flip 24 seats to gain control of the House. That goal has become a little more attainable due to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision.


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