Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tosses New District Maps

Jan 25, 2012

A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court is invalidating a plan to redraw district lines for seats in the state House and Senate, calling the redistricting approach "contrary to law."

The justices voted 4-3 to send the plan back to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. The majority said their opinion in the case would be released later.

The high court's ruling throws into disarray plans by candidates and parties for this year's General Assembly races.

The two-page order says current district lines remain in force until the commission comes up with a new plan that passes legal muster.

The commission consists of the Republican and Democratic floor leaders from the House and Senate, along with a fifth member, an appointed judge.

The plan the court threw out was opposed by Senate Democrats.

"There were some really specific examples of overreach by the Republicans on the Commission," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Mark Nicastre. "There were municipalities and areas that were split up simply for the sake of electing Republican politicians, so we're encouraged that the maps were remanded."

Nicastre said Democrats are "cautiously optimistic" about what's in store for any new redistricting proposals.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said his caucus is very pleased with the ruling of the court, but he says he awaits a court opinion to find out how the map needs to be changed. "I really can't say what the overhaul is going to have to be at this point without having the guidance of the court as it relates to how we address that issue," said Costa.

Democratic Senator Jim Brewster's Allegheny County district would have been moved to Monroe County under the 2011 plan that was just rejected by the Supreme Court. "He was the first person I called," said Costa. "[H]e intends to run for the office, the 45th district, which, as we believe, stays in Allegheny County, and everything goes back to the 2001 version of the plan."

Not everyone is Happy

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said the Supreme Court is in "uncharted territory" and he cannot speculate as to why the court rejected the 2011 legislative redistricting plan.

"I'm frankly surprised that any judge would have voted to remand this plan," said Pileggi, "It is a very solid plan that meets all state and federal, constitutional and statutory guidelines and I'm very anxious to read the opinion and see the reason for the remand."

Pileggi said a small adjustment to the map could be fixed in a matter of days, but he can't speculate on how long it could take to satisfy the Supreme Court.

For maps of the proposed districts, visit the Pennsylvania redistricting website.

Some content © 2012 The Associated Press.