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Supreme Court won't block new PA congressional maps

WASHINGTON, DC — The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on February 2 denied a motion for a stay regarding the redrawing of the Congressional District maps in Pennsylvania. On January 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that when the maps were redrawn in the wake of the 2010 census  by Republicans who were in control of the state Senate, House and a majority on the state Supreme Court, they drew maps that were gerrymandered to the point that they violated the state constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that the maps must be redrawn before the next primaries in May. The decision was written by Justice Samuel Alito, who rejected the appeal without taking it to the rest of the SCOTUS justices.

Republican leadership in Harrisburg asked SCOTUS to overrule the state court and grant a stay on the grounds that the state court overstepped its authority and also did not give the legislature enough time to redraw the congressional maps.

SCOTUS flatly rejected the Republican appeal, saying that to grant it, “This Court would need to overrule no fewer than six of its precedents, all upholding the power of state courts to review and remedy unconstitutional congressional districting plans…   Their stay applications are just a ploy to preserve a congressional map that violates Pennsylvania’s Constitution for one more election cycle.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai issued a statement in response saying, “We still do not believe that there was a violation of the state Constitution, that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court can direct us to draw a new congressional map, or that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has the authority to draw a new Congressional District Map under the Pennsylvania Constitution or United States Constitution.

“We will do our best to comply with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s January 22nd order, but may be compelled to pursue further legal action in federal court.” Gov. Tom Wolf also issued a statement saying, “The U.S. Supreme Court correctly recognized that there is no reason to delay implementing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order. Now, all parties must focus on getting a fair map in place.”

The state court order said that in redrawing the congressional maps, “any congressional districting plan shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.” That order now stands. The order also said that if the legislature is unable to come up with a redistricting plan that satisfies the conditions it listed, the court would draw new maps.

The court also ordered Republicans to turn over information regarding municipal boundaries in the state, but Scarnati refused to do so. Because of gerrymandering, in the last two election cycles, Republicans were able to gain 13 out of the state’s 18 Congressional election districts despite the number of voters being about equally split between the two main parties in the state. With new maps, analysts say Democrats should be able to gain a few additional seats in Congress.


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