Supreme Court Spikes Pennsylvania GOP's Final Hopes Over New Map

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Feb. 19 2018 released this map of redrawn congressional districts

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Feb. 19 2018 released this map of redrawn congressional districts

"Today's Supreme Court ruling was a victory for Pennsylvania voters who will now be able to cast ballots for congressional candidates in districts not unconstitutionally manipulated to make them uncompetitive", said Micah Sims, Common Cause Pennsylvania's executive director. "These are things that, on the present record, we can not do".

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the former map in January, saying it gave Republicans such an advantage that it violated the state constitution's guarantee that elections be free and equal.

The federal judges' decision comes in a case brought a month ago by eight sitting Republican congressmen and two GOP state senators.

It is the second time on Monday Republicans received a judicial blow from the courts. "After the legislature did not meet a court deadline to submit a new version, the court drew its own redistricting map".

The three judges hearing the arguments were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called the federal judges' ruling the right decision and said it will let the state move ahead with a fair map.

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The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, rejected the Republicans' petition in a single-line order. A stay would have resulted in the use of the 2011 map for this year's congressional elections in Pennsylvania.

Republicans now hold 12 of the state's 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five.

In statements, Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania said they were disappointed by the rulings but reiterated their belief that the state Supreme Court had usurped the legislature's role. Under that old map, Republicans won the same 13 out of 18 seats in every race since it was enacted.

Both decisions came with just one day left for the state's congressional candidates to circulate petitions to get on the May 15 primary ballot.

The state Supreme Court then imposed a new map that many outside experts said still gave Republicans an edge but created more competitive districts and some more districts that are expected to favor Democrats.

In the federal lawsuit, though, the Republican lawmakers did not have standing, the federal judges said.

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We still believe these issues in this case are vital constitutional questions that deserve to be heard, including the PA Supreme Court taking on the role of creating legislation.

"I am a lawyer, and I have not read the decision, but I am surprised because I thought we did have legal standing", he said, referring to his colleagues who joined with him in filing the challenge.

"The Plaintiffs are neither the Pennsylvania General Assembly nor a group to which Pennsylvania has delegated the Commonwealth's lawmaking power", the judges wrote.

The denial of the latest application, like the denial of the earlier one, was unsurprising because the Pennsylvania court had based its rulings exclusively on the state Constitution.

Under the new map, Democrats have a good chance to pick up three seats in the Philadelphia suburbs, and a fighting chance of flipping Republican districts in Harrisburg, Allentown and outside Pittsburgh, said Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna.

Both Meredith and Goldfeder agree that this case may set a precedent for gerrymandering suits to be considered under state law instead of federal law, though this may depend on the outcome of several cases now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. That appeal could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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