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Pennsylvania court sets deadline to break stalemate on congressional map

A statewide court has given lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf two weeks to break a stalemate around redrawing Pennsylvania's congressional districts to account for a decade of demographic shifts.

The Commonwealth Court issued the order Friday, acting on a request last month for it to get involved in the process. It set Jan. 30 for the deadline for it to render its judgment on proposals that are submitted to it.

That deadline is barely two weeks before the date — Feb. 15 — when candidates can start circulating petitions to get on primary election ballots. The primary election is May 17.

Any opinion by the Commonwealth Court is likely to be appealed to the state Supreme Court, raising the prospect that the petition window for congressional candidates will be delayed.

The Commonwealth Court told parties in the case — including lawmakers, activists and Wolf — that they must submit a proposed map by 5 p.m. on Jan. 24.

In this year's election, Pennsylvania is losing a congressional seat, dropping from 18 to 17, to reflect population changes over the past decade reported by the U.S. Census that shows it growing more slowly than the rest of the nation. The delegation is currently split evenly, with nine Democrats and nine Republicans.

Courts also picked or drew Pennsylvania's congressional map in 1992 and 2018.

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