State Supreme Court splits York County in new congressional map
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s high court issued a new congressional district map for the state’s 2018 elections on its self-imposed deadline Monday, all but ensuring that Democratic prospects will improve in several seats and that Republican lawmakers will challenge it in federal court.
The newly drawn districts vastly change representation in York County, which currently is wholly encompassed in the 4th District with all of Adams County and parts of Dauphin and Cumberland counties.
The county will now be split into the 10th District — including all of Dauphin County and part of Cumberland County — and the 11th District, joining the majority of York County with all of Lancaster County.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, would appear to be in the 10th District.
Perry called the court's district map "in direct violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution" and stated the process sets "a dangerous national precedent." He stated in an email statement that he believes the new map unfairly benefits Democrats.
“If you don’t like the existing Congressional maps, there’s a procedure to change them after the 2020 Census; yet (Gov. Tom Wolf) and the Democrat-majority (Pa.) Supreme Court has chosen their party over our Constitution," Perry stated. "Every state in the nation needs to pay closer attention right now: Apparently your state’s constitution means nothing. The next step is trampling over the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court should end this farce immediately," he added.
The 11th District appears to include incumbent U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, who currently represents the 16th District.
Other districts currently representing Dauphin County include the 11th and 15th districts, represented by Republican Reps. Lou Barletta and Charlie Dent, respectively. Barletta is pursuing a Senate seat and Dent is retiring.
Political analyst Terry G. Madonna said it looked like Perry would face a tougher re-election campaign in this new 10th District, noting that Dauphin County as a whole voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Madonna said his initial reaction to the map is that Democrats could easily pick up three to five seats in the 2018 election.
Democratic challengers to Perry — George Scott, of Dillsburg, and Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, of York City — both said they believe the new map looks more fair. Corbin-Johnson withheld further comment because she wasn't sure if she now fell in the 10th District or 11th District.
Scott, certain he now falls in the 10th District, said he's disappointed to see York County divided and split from Adams County, where he's campaigned since August, but he's looking forward to meeting more Dauphin County voters.
The map of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts is to be in effect for the May 15 primary and substantially overhauls a congressional map widely viewed as among the nation’s most gerrymandered. The map was approved in a 4-3 decision.
Most significantly, the new map likely gives Democrats a better shot at winning seats in Philadelphia’s heavily populated and moderate suburbs, where Republicans had held seats in bizarrely contorted districts, including one labeled “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck.”
The redrawn map could boost the Democratic Party’s quest to capture control of the U.S. House and dramatically change Pennsylvania’s predominantly Republican, all-male delegation.
Meanwhile, sitting congressmen, dozens of would-be candidates and millions of voters have to sort out which district they live in barely a month before the candidates’ deadline to submit paperwork to run.
Republican lawmakers are expected to quickly challenge the map in federal court, arguing that legislatures and governors, not courts, have the constitutional responsibility to draw congressional maps.
State House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said the decision to split York County showed the incompetence of the state Supreme Court and vowed that the Republican-controlled Legislature would challenge to have the map thrown out.
Saylor said the Supreme Court and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf have acted in a very partisan manner, putting the state in a constitutional crisis that will end up costing the state.
The Democratic-majority state Supreme Court ruled last month in a party line decision that the district boundaries unconstitutionally put partisan interests above neutral line-drawing criteria, such as keeping districts compact and eliminating municipal and county divisions.
The new map would only split 13 counties, while the current map splits 28, according to Madonna.
The decision is the first time a state court threw out congressional boundaries in a partisan gerrymandering case and handed a victory to the group of registered Democratic voters who sued last June in a lawsuit backed by the League of Women Voters.
Candidates can start circulating petitions to run in their new district Feb. 27. Pennsylvania has seen a surge in interest in running for Congress, with six incumbents elected in 2016 not running again — the most in four decades — and Democrats vehemently opposing President Donald Trump.
Pennsylvania’s Republican delegation has provided a crucial pillar of support for Republican control of the U.S. House since 2010.
Republicans who controlled the Legislature and governor’s office after the 2010 census crafted it to elect Republicans and succeeded in that aim: Republicans won 13 of 18 seats in three straight elections under the now-invalidated map, even though Pennsylvania’s statewide elections are often closely divided, and registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The new map will not apply to the March 13 special congressional election in southwestern Pennsylvania’s 18th District between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb.
— Staff reporter David Weissman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.