The court ruled the map unconstitutional on on January 22nd, but did not release the majority opinion until this Wednesday.
In the ruling, authored by Justice Debra Todd, cites Article I, Section 5 of the state Constitution as the justification for the court throwing out the 2011 maps.
The court ruled that district lines can be redrawn to preserve some district lines, protect incumbents, and maintain political balance in the state, but that those considerations should be subordinate to politically neutral districts and that “gerrymandering for unfair partisan political advantage” would be unconstitutional.
The court set a standard for new Congressional maps as “neutral criteria of compactness, contiguity, minimization of the division of political subdivisions, and maintenance of population equality among congressional districts…provide a ‘floor’ of protection for an individual against the dilution of his or her vote in the creation of such districts.”
Drew Crompton, the Senate’s top lawyer, told the Post-Gazette that the court’s decision raised new questions, including how much politics can play a role in drawing maps. Crompton also said that the court is positioning itself to usurp the legislature’s role in drawing maps.
“It’s saying, ‘Apply these standards when you draw new maps, but we reserve the right to throw them out if we don’t like them,” Crompton said.
David Gersch of Arnold & Porter, one of the lawyers representing the petitioners, celebrated the court’s decision calling it an “historic opinion” and that it “recognizes partisan gerrymandering’s corrosive effects on representative democracy and provides enduring protections for Pennsylvania voters.”