Published: Tue, January 23, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down Congressional district map

Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down Congressional district map

The decision by the Pennsylvania court comes just a week after the U.S. Supreme Court delayed a lower court order in North Carolina that would have forced that state to redraw its congressional district as well.

In a state where there are 4 million registered Democrats and 3.2 million registered Republicans, only five of the state's 18 members of Congress are Democrat.

In a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the electoral map violated the state's Constitution by manipulating the district boundaries to marginalize Democratic voters, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.

The court ruling says the state General Assembly must submit a new plan for congressional districts that satisfies the requirements of the state constitution to the governor before February 9, and if the governor accepts the plan, it must go to the Supreme Court by February 15.

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.

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The League of Women Voters' Pennsylvania chapter sued to invalidate the existing map, accusing the legislature of erasing prior district boundaries and reconstituting them with the goal of maximizing Republican voters' political advantage.

"It's well established that the United States Supreme Court does not review decisions of state force that exclusively construe state law", attorney Stanton Jones said. It's unclear whether the high court will intervene in the case because the Pennsylvania court said its ruling was based on state law - on which it has the final word - and not federal law. That Republican-led court is now looking at two other cases from Maryland and Wisconsin.

Given how often state and federal courts have knocked these gerrymanders down over their blatant unconstitutionality, one can wish Republicans might engage in a little self-reflection. That includes the 7th District, considered by many around the county to be the most Gerrymandered Congressional district in the entire U.S.

The justices, ruling just days after hearing oral arguments in the case, also state in their order that a new map will be in place by February 19 to use for the primary election scheduled for May 15, according to the case docket.

A proposal that would begin the process for a change to the state constitution to create an independent commission to draw the maps has stalled in the Legislature. The court said in its order that that race will proceed under the old congressional map.

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