Pennsylvania Supreme Court releases new congressional map

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court released a new congressional map on Monday after the previous map was found to be a result of unconstitutional gerrymandering from Republicans.

The map, which was approved in a 4-3 vote, is set to go into effect in time for the state's May 15 primaries.

Pennsylvania's current map is considered to be one of the most gerrymandered in the U.S. President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE captured the state with 48.6 percent of the vote in 2016, but Republicans hold 13 of the state's House seats, compared to only five for Democrats.

The new map is expected to especially aid Democrats in suburbs of Philadelphia, where the party was already targeting a handful of swing districts.

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Gov. Tom Wolf (D) praised the decision, saying in a statement he respects the court's "effort to remedy Pennsylvania’s unfair and unequal congressional elections."

Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder endorses Pelosi for Speaker Poll: Biden and Sanders lead 2020 Dem field, followed by Beto O'Rourke Trump's shortlist for attorney general takes shape MORE, who has dedicated himself to anti-gerrymandering efforts since leaving the Obama administration, also applauded the ruling.

"This new map will finally allow Pennsylvanians the opportunity to choose their elected officials and have a congressional delegation that more accurately reflects the political desires of the people," Holder said.

The map leaves voters, current representatives and potential candidates with little time to figure out their districting before the deadline hits for those running in elections to declare their candidacy. 

Candidates will be able to begin sending petitions to run in their new districts on Feb. 27. The current filing deadline is March 20.

Republicans are expected to challenge the decision from the Supreme Court, saying that only lawmakers and governors hold the authority to redraw congressional maps, rather than the courts.  

The new map will not apply for next month's special election in Pennsylvania's 18th District. Republicans have poured money into the race to replace former Rep. Tim MurphyTim MurphyPennsylvania New Members 2019 Poll: Lamb has double-digit lead in Pennsylvania House race Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain MORE (R), who resigned after reports that he encouraged a women with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion.

Vice President Pence traveled to the state earlier this month to campaign for the race's Republican candidate, Rick Saccone. 

Trump, the first Republican to carry the Keystone State since 1988, was also slated to campaign for Saccone last week but postponed the rally after a gunman killed 17 people at a south Florida high school on Wednesday. 

Saccone holds a three-point lead over his Democratic opponent Conor Lamb, according to a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette poll

Gerrymandering has become a hot-button issue ahead of the 2018 midterm elections in other states as well.  

A three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled in January that the state’s map was an unconstitutional gerrymander, however the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to immediately take up the case this month. 

The decision could demonstrate the justices want to rule in partisan gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland that are already before them before taking the third case.

—Updated at 5:44 p.m.