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HARRISBURG A divided state Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Pennsylvania’s congressional maps are illegally gerrymandered and ordered the General Assembly to immediately begin redrawing them.

The 4 3 decision comes less than a week after the justices heard oral arguments in the lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters last year.

The justices made clear they want the new map in place in time for this year’s congressional elections. Rep. Tim Murphy.

“I strongly believe that gerrymandering is wrong and consistently have stated that the current maps are unfair to Pennsylvanian,” Gov. Tom Wolf said after the decision was announced. Supreme Court to issue a stay to halt the state court’s decision.

The ruling focuses solely on the congressional districts which are designed using a different process than state legislative districts.

Under Pennsylvania law, the districts of state lawmakers are developed by a bipartisan committee. The congressional maps are spelled out in state legislation, passed by the General Assembly. In this case, the congressional maps were passed in 2011 by a Republican controlled Legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor, Tom Corbett.

In the decision, the majority justices found that the map “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution” of the state.

“Today’s ruling by the State Supreme Court is a partisan action showing a distinct lack of respect for the Constitution and the legislative process.

While the Senate Republican leaders pledged to fight the ruling, Sen. Supreme Court should intervene. They said that they based their arguments on the state Constitution and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in reaching its conclusion, pointed to state law. Supreme Court has traditionally refrained from stepping in to tell state courts how to interpret their own laws. Supreme Court considers their implications. Supreme Court from intervening, the Pennsylvania gerrymandering challenge would be the first successful effort to get congressional maps declared illegal and replaced, said David Gersch, the lead attorney for the League of Women Voters.

“This is a tremendous day for Pennsylvania,” Gersch said, calling the contested maps “the worst maps in Pennsylvania history.”

A Commonwealth Court judge found in December that there was evidence that the states had been manipulated by Republicans to give their party an advantage. But he found that there was nothing illegal with their efforts.

The matter was then fast tracked by the state Supreme Court,
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which consists of five Democrats and two Republicans.

Attorneys representing legislative leaders didn’t dispute that political factors were considered in making the state’s congressional maps. They said that’s always been the case and that the state law allows it.

In the lawsuit, the League of Women Voters alleged that the last three congressional elections have demonstrated that Pennsylvania’s congressional maps are out of whack. In a state where there are 4 million registered Democrats and 3.2 million registered Republicans, only five of the state’s 18 members of Congress are Democrat.

Four of the Democrats on the state Supreme Court Debra McCloskey Todd, Christine Donohue, Kevin Dougherty and David Wecht ordered the Legislature to issue new congressional maps by Feb. 9 so that the primary election scheduled for May 15 can take place with the revised legislative boundaries. The court’s ruling added that if the maps are completed by Feb. 9, the governor has until Feb. 15 to approve them. If those deadlines are missed, the court will come up with its own redistricting plan using the evidence provided by the Commonwealth Court’s review of the case.

Justice Max Baer was the lone Democrat on the court to object to the decision. In a separate opinion, Baer said he agrees that the existing maps are unconstitutional, but he said trying to replace them would create a risk of serious disruption of the election process. Baer said he’d rather see the maps replaced for the 2020 election.

Both Republican justices Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy disagreed with their Democratic counterparts. Saylor wrote that the Commonwealth Court’s review of the existing maps raised “substantial concerns” about whether the existing maps are legal. However, he said the court should not try to replace the maps “in such an extraordinarily compressed fashion,” especially without providing the public without some specific guidelines about what would make the maps legal. Mundy signed onto Saylor’s opinion but added her own, as well, to call out her fellow justices for taking such a dramatic step without clearly explaining how the problems with the maps are to be corrected.

“The Court’s order fails to give essential guidance to the General Assembly and the Governor, or this Court on how to create a constitutional, non gerrymandered map,
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” she wrote.