The Congressional District map has been re-drawn in Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court followed through on its threat to do it for the legislature and governor if they failed to do it. As maps go, the new one does appear to be fairly organized, but it’s still going to cause a fair amount of chaos particularly in western Pennsylvania.
The above map offered by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will have a profound effect on the current 18th Congressional District that voters will be more aware of than any other in the Commonwealth. In March, there is a special election to fill the seat vacated by Tim Murphy, but in May, voters in that election may find themselves in a new district with all new candidates for office. The current candidates for the 18th District reside in other districts on the new map, so it’s possible that they both could be running for different seats just a couple months after the special election.
Before anyone gets annoyed with inaction by the Pennsylvania lawmakers and governor, it is important to consider this district. No matter what, the people would have faced shifting district lines in this region, and it will undoubtedly be the topic of many conversations about government waste. Pennsylvania is going through the added expense of a special election for a district that won’t exist in the same way after this year, and it’s fair to assume that whoever caused that will be blamed. The governor and lawmakers all will face re-election, so it’s not surprising that they left the map drawing to the court – better to avoid backlash from voters at the ballot box.
Of course, Republicans have stated that they are going to petition for a hearing with the U.S. Supreme Court on this entire situation, since drawing the Congressional map is supposed to be handled by Pennsylvania’s legislators, not the court. Time will tell how this new map will change the balance of power going to Washington, since both sides are claiming that it will help them at least a little.
It’s too soon to make any assumptions because Pennsylvania already did shift unexpectedly in 2016 for Trump. While it’s possible that is an indication of a real political trend toward the right, it’s important to recognize the fact that Congressional candidates in Pennsylvania often campaign in the middle of the road. The current campaign for the 18th District is offering a pro-gun Democrat, and a pro-safety-net Republican according to recent ads offered by the respective candidates. The more polarizing ads are from out-of-state political groups from both sides of the aisle. While there are some voters on the fringes in Pennsylvania like in any other state, the fringes simply don’t tend to sway the rank-and-file voters toward the middle anywhere near as much as people outside the Commonwealth may think. Honestly, the largest issue this year will be over the new district lines, and there aren’t any obvious targets for anger over that on any ballots. The people and the candidates are all going to be able to claim problems with what the court has done, and the justices will be out of reach of everyone on election day.