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Pennsylvania Supreme Court to decide state congressional map

(HARRISBURG, Penn.) — In a decision that could have major ramifications for the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will decide today on a new congressional map after the governor and state legislature could not come to an agreement on a map last week.

Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled state legislature had until Thursday at midnight last week to agree on a new congressional map, but were unable to submit a map satisfying both parties to the state’s high court in time.

Numerous map submissions from both sides of the aisle were presented to the state Supreme Court, which ordered the state’s congressional boundaries redrawn late last month, but after Wolf vetoed a map submitted Republican leaders in the statehouse last Tuesday it became clear both sides were not going to reach an agreement by the February 16 deadline.

Republicans in the state harshly criticized Wolf for rejecting the map they submitted, saying his decision “sets forth a nonsensical approach to governance.”

“This entire exercise, while cloaked in ‘litigation,’ is and has been nothing more than the ultimate partisan gerrymander – one brought about by the Democrat Chief Executive of the Commonwealth acting in concert with politically-connected litigants in order to divest the General Assembly of its Constitutional authority to enact Congressional districts,” Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai and State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati wrote in a statement last Tuesday.

Wolf submitted his own map last week that he claimed “combined features of legislative submissions” and was “statistically more fair than the Republican leaders’ submission.”

“From the outset, I have made clear I wanted a map that was fair and removed the partisanship that Pennsylvanians have been forced to live under since the 2012 elections,” Governor Wolf said in a statement Thursday. “This map takes features from Republican and Democratic submissions, while still meeting the court’s orders and opinion, to provide Pennsylvanians with a fair map.”

Republicans currently hold 12 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five. One seat is currently vacant but will be filled following the March 13 special election to replace former Representative Tim Murphy, R-Penn., who resigned over a sex scandal last year.

The new congressional map, expected to be announced in an order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sometime today, could allow Democrats to pick up between 2 to 3 seats in the 2018 midterm elections.

“If the Pennsylvania map changes, it’s hard to imagine how the Republicans hold control of the House so maybe that’s why we’re seeing the desperation we’re seeing,” Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy institute, told ABC News.

The suburban districts around the city of Philadelphia are expected to be heavily redrawn, which could affect the seats currently represented by Republican congressmen Pat Meehan and Ryan Costello.

Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in both Meehan and Costello’s districts in the 2016 presidential election.

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