The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a new congressional map on Monday, splitting Centre County into two districts. That changes a few things for local candidates running in the May 15 primary.
The majority of the county is in what’s been dubbed the 15th Congressional District. However, much of State College and the southeastern part of the county are in the 12th district, which also includes Clinton, Mifflin and Juniata counties.
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that the 2011 Pennsylvania congressional map was unconstitutional, leading Republican lawmakers to scramble to submit a new map. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf rejected that map and then submitted a version last week, which sent the issue to the high court.
Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said in a press release that the Department of State is working on implementing the “remedial congressional map.”
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He said that the changes will have no affect on voters’ polling places for the May primary. But in counties that have been split, like Centre County, the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation is working with them to ensure that they have the information necessary to update voter registration files.
The deadline for congressional candidates to file their intentions to run in the upcoming primary has been extended to March 20, according to the Department of State.
Marc Friedenberg, who had been seeking the Democratic nomination in what was the 5th district, now resides in the new 12th district. He still plans to run for Congress.
“Even though I was looking forward to winning the fight against Glenn Thompson, the incumbent in the redrawn 12th is Tom Marino, who is every bit the swamp-dwelling sellout that Thompson is,” Friedenberg said in a statement.
Rep. Thompson, R-Howard Township, said he is disappointed in the court’s decision, saying it acted unilaterally to draw the new district lines. He will still be the incumbent in the 15th district race, however.
“Legislating should be left up to the general assembly,” Thompson said “This move has caused a lot of confusion and uncertainty for voters as the May primaries approach and has thrown Pennsylvania into a constitutional crisis.”
Kerith Strano Taylor and Wade Jodun, both Democrats, had also announced their plans to run against Thompson, but did not respond to requests for comment.
GOP officials are expected to take action in federal court to prevent the state court’s map from taking effect.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s main issue isn’t with all the maps that were submitted — he’s more concerned about the separation of powers. Corman, R-Benner Township, said the state Supreme Court “usurped our legislative powers and duties.”
He said the Republicans were given 18 days to submit a map. However, it took the court 16 days to get the opinion out, which only left them two days to work with.
Corman said he asked Wolf to work together and petition the court for an extension in order for them to produce a bipartisan map that they can all be happy with. But he said Wolf declined, sending the matter to the state Supreme Court.
“The process that should’ve unfolded was for us to go back to the public, to get input for the people of Pennsylvania to have a say and to then produce a map through the legislative process,” Corman said.
National Democratic Redistricting Committee Chairman Eric Holder said the map is a “victory in the fight against gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and around the country.”
Wolf also voiced his support for the court’s map.
“Over the last month, I have personally heard from thousands of Pennsylvanians and they are sick and tired of gerrymandering, which perpetuates gridlock, alienates citizens and stifles reform,” Wolf said in a statement. “I have stood for fairness and rejected a proposed map that was universally seen as another partisan gerrymander. I applaud the court for their decision and I respect their effort to remedy Pennsylvania’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.”