PA District Map Battle Goes High Court 02/22 06:09
A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a
new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the
nation's highest court.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania
Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in
the hands of the nation's highest court.
The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene,
saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map.
More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal
challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week.
The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that
was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan
violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections.
The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving
Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim
House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said
the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision.
"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting
process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a
remedial map to ensure a court drawn map," they wrote in a filing made
electronically after business hours.
The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate
nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot.
A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers'
filing, said Wolf was "focused on making sure the Department of State is fully
complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting
candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary
It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the
U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took
leading roles in creating.
In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a
case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January.
On Feb. 5, Alito rejected a request from Turzai and Scarnati to halt a Jan.
22 order from the state Supreme Court that gave the Republican leaders two
weeks to propose a map that would be supported by Wolf and until last week to
suggest a new map to the court.
Turzai and Scarnati argued that the state's high court gave them scant time
to propose their own map after throwing out the 2011 version, ensuring "that
its desired plan to draft the new map would be successful." As evidence of a
"preordained plan," they cited comments critical of gerrymandering made by
Justice David Wecht during his 2015 campaign for the court.
"The court's process was entirely closed," they told Alito. "It did not
allow the parties the opportunity to provide any comment to the proposed map,
inquire on why certain subdivisions were split and whether it was to meet
population equality, or further evaluate whether partisan intent played any
role in the drafting."
As a sign of the litigation's potential impact on national politics,
President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Republicans to press their challenge of
the map to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Your Original was correct! Don't let the Dems take elections away from you
so that they can raise taxes & waste money!" Trump tweeted.
The five Democrats on the state Supreme Court sided with Democratic voters
who challenged the map, although one of the Democratic justices, Max Baer, has
pointedly opposed the compressed timetable.
Republicans who controlled the Legislature and the governor's office after
the 2010 census crafted the now-invalidated map to help elect Republicans. They
succeeded in that aim: Republicans won 13 of 18 seats in three straight
elections even though Pennsylvania's registered Democratic voters outnumber
An analysis conducted through PlanScore.org concluded the court's redrawn
map eliminates "much of the partisan skew" favoring Republicans on the old
GOP-drawn map, but not all of it.
Congressional candidates have from Feb. 27 to March 20 to collect and submit
enough signatures to get on the ballot, and the new maps have candidates and
would-be candidates scrambling to decide whether to jump in. Five incumbents
are not seeking another term and a sixth has resigned, an unusually large
number of openings.