Court Rules PA Legislative Districts Must Be Redrawn

Pauline Gross
January 23, 2018

The New York Times notes that the state's GOP legislators are vowing to immediately appeal this decision in federal court, but that's unlikely to go anywhere, given that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court based their decision on principles within the state's constitution, including equal protection.

The majority of justices gave the Republican-controlled legislature until February 9 to draw up a new plan for approval by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf or have the court do it for them.

On Monday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling that the Republican-controlled state legislature illegally gerrymandered congressional districts - and furthermore, that the maps must be redrawn in time for the midterm elections.

The court ruled that a new map must be submitted to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, by February 9 - and then Wolf has until February 15 to accept it.

The state Senate president, Joe Scarnati, and majority leader, Jake Corman, both Republicans, called the court's deadline "impossible" and said they would request a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 4-3 vote, the Democratic-led judiciary struck down the boundaries of the state's 18 congressional districts.

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Unlike other recent gerrymandering decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court can not overrule or stay this ruling, because it was not a federal question, but rather a state court interpreting a state constitution. That Republican-led court is now looking at two other cases from Maryland and Wisconsin.

The state's congressional delegation is controlled by Republicans, 13-5, even though registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans. The nation's high court already halted a decision from a three-judge federal court panel that ordered North Carolina's Republican-drawn Congressional map reconfigured. "I want to thank and compliment the attorneys and parties who brought this before the Supreme Court and helped right this obvious wrong". On a new map, however, it could become much more Democratic-leaning.

The court heard a case from Wisconsin past year that challenged Republicans' drawing of state legislative maps for being overtly partisan.

It could also give the party a major boost in its quest to take back the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to net 24 seats to win control of the chamber.

The League of Women Voters had challenged the district map in court, arguing that the state's congressional lines were "among the most extreme partisan gerrymanders in American history". The court's order did not specify how the map runs afoul of the law but said a full opinion will be released in the future.

Other reports by GizPress

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