Supreme Court keeps revised Pennsylvania congressional map in place

A redrawn congressional map will likely govern congressional elections this year in Pennsylvania after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a Republican request to block new district boundaries.

The new map, which now nearly certainly will be the lines under which candidates will run in 2018, also handed Democrats a series of opportunities including at least three seats in southeastern Pennsylvania and several more improved opportunities in places like Allentown and southwestern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with ongoing battles over how much partisanship and politics is too much partisanship and politics when it comes to redistricting.

"I want to thank every citizen who spoke out in favor of fair maps and against partisan gerrymandering".

The state's Republican legislative leaders had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the map, while eight Republican Congress members and two Republican state lawmakers separately filed a federal lawsuit in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, seeking the same remedy.

The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, rejected the Republicans' petition in a single-line order.

Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature challenged the new maps in federal court. Judge Christopher Conner and Judge Kent Jordan were chosen for the federal bench by President George W. Bush, while Judge Jerome Simandle was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.

The map was imposed February 19, four weeks after the court ruled Pennsylvania's existing map violated the state constitution's guarantee of "free and equal" elections by marginalizing Democratic vote counts through extreme gerrymandering. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats.

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"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", said state House Speaker Michael C. Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati III.

Pennsylvania traditionally is a purple state, and now has a legislature controlled by Republicans, a governor who is a Democrat and a USA senator from each party.

The state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 split, set one deadline for the legislature to submit a new map for consideration and another deadline for Democratic Gov. Wolf to review it.

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.

Because the ruling was based on the state's constitution and not the US Constitution, the options for opponents to challenge it were limited.

"The Plaintiffs are neither the Pennsylvania General Assembly nor a group to which Pennsylvania has delegated the Commonwealth's lawmaking power", the judges wrote. "These are things that, on the present record, we can not do".

"If the ice cream's melting on the dot, you have Justice Alito considering the...request", Chief U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner said during the hearing.

  • Megan Austin