WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania’s congressional district map is a partisan gerrymander that “clearly, plainly and palpably” violates the state’s Constitution, the State Supreme Court said on Monday, adding to a string of court decisions striking down political maps that unduly favor one political party.
The court banned the current map of the state’s 18 House districts from being used in this year’s primary and general elections, and ordered that a new map be submitted to the court by Feb. 15. But the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature, which approved the current map in 2011, has already said it would try to overturn such a decision in federal court. That would set up another legal battle over gerrymanders in a year already filled with them.
But an appeal to the federal courts would very likely fail, election experts said, because decisions based solely on interpretations of state law — as this one appears to be — are generally beyond the reach of federal judges.
For the same reason, the state court’s decision has no direct bearing on a string of challenges to partisan gerrymanders that are already moving through the federal court system. Earlier this month, in fact, a divided panel of three federal judges left intact the same Pennsylvania House map that the state court threw out on Monday.