HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) — Pennsylvania has less than a month to redraw its congressional map, the divided state Supreme Court ruled Monday, finding that Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered district lines in 2011.
"We are thrilled, and see this as a victory for democracy," Suzanne Almeida, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said in a phone interview this afternoon. "The 2018 elections are incredibly important and this is a win for all Pennsylvanians.”
Promising an opinion to follow, the court’s 2-page order offers little detail on the 2011 map, but it notes that the replacement must be finalized by Feb. 9 and submitted by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Feb. 15.
“I strongly believe that gerrymandering is wrong and consistently have stated that the current maps are unfair to Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a statement Monday. “My administration is reviewing the order and we are assessing the executive branch's next steps in this process.”
Using the unconstitutional map in the last election, Republicans were able to win 13 of 18 seats in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5:4.
Adopted after the 2010 census, the gerrymandered map chopped up large counties like Montgomery across as many as five districts to shore up area Republicans.
One district was so misshapen that it was renamed "Goofy kicking Donald Duck” by the winner of a write-in contest organized by the Washington Post.
Justice Max Baer agreed in a concurring opinion Monday that the district lines must be redrawn but he questioned the wisdom of using new maps for the May 15 primary.
“I understand the court’s desire to follow this schedule as it is arguably counterintuitive to believe that the current map is unconstitutional and, nevertheless, direct its usage in the May 2018 election,” he wrote. “There are, however, other forces at play. When faced with an unconstitutional map, courts should determine ‘whether the imminence of [the primary and] general elections requires the utilization of [a prior plan] notwithstanding [its] invalidity’ or whether a constitutional map ‘can practicably be effectuated’ in time for the pending election.
Quoting the 1964 case Butcher v. Bloom, Baer warned that implementation of a new map for the May 2018 primary election risks “serious disruption of orderly state election processes and basic governmental functions.”