HARRISBURG -- In a surprising move, the state Supreme Court today remanded the new state reapportionment plan back to a redistricting commission for more work.
In a 4-3 decision, the high court agreed with critics of the new maps of the state House and Senate in saying they didn't comply with the state constitution for "compactness" of shape and keeping neighboring communities together in the same district. Republican Chief Justice Ronald Castille joined three Democrats in ordering more work on the plan.
The court heard arguments on 11 objections to the new lines last week.
The court did not immediate say what the specific problems are, but told the five-member redistricting panel, which approved new boundaries for the 203 House districts and 50 senate districts, to go back to work.
The date for candidates to take out nominating petitions was delayed from Tuesday of this week until Thursday, and the date for turning in the petition signatures is now Feb. 16.
Critics complained about some aspects of the new maps, including Senate Democrats complaining that the 45th district, represented by Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport, was shifted across the state to Monroe County. Other complaints centered on the city of Harrisburg being moved into a Lebanon County-based district and some towns in the Philadelphia suburbs being unnecessarily divided into different legislative districts.
The new maps are based on the 2010 census, with the new district lines to be in effect for the next 10 years. The lines had to be redrawn to reflect state population changes from 2000-10.