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Article published May 7, 2013
State high court upholds redrawn legislative map
HARRISBURG — A revised plan to redraw the boundaries of Pennsylvania’s legislative districts won the unanimous approval today of the state Supreme Court. The court rejected renewed appeals by citizen challengers and Democrats that this plan, like the previous one, was driven by political considerations and did not meet constitutional guidelines. The court’s three Republican and three Democratic justices ruled that the new map is constitutional and can take effect for Pennsylvania’s 203 House districts and 50 Senate districts beginning in the 2014 elections. Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in the 59-page opinion that the court’s review of the maps “discloses no overt instances of bizarrely shaped districts” that might show an intent to group certain voter blocs. The court’s ruling came after it had ruled 4-to-3 last year to reject the map drawn by the five-member commission of top lawmakers — two Democrats and two Republicans — and a former judge, who is a Republican. In rejecting the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s original plan, it agreed with challengers that political considerations had unduly split municipalities and produced strangely shaped districts. As a result, last year’s legislative elections were based on maps drawn in 2001, drawing complaints from Republican that population shifts meant that voters were no longer fairly represented. Many of the same challengers made the same complaint about the redrawn map. But the reapportionment commission’s lawyers argued that it reduced the number of split counties and municipalities and created more compact districts.