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Pennsylvania GOP leader defies court order on gerrymandering

A top Pennsylvania state Senate Republican is refusing to follow a court order requiring lawmakers to turn over data ...

Posted: Feb 2, 2018 12:00 AM
Updated: Feb 2, 2018 12:00 AM

A top Pennsylvania state Senate Republican is refusing to follow a court order requiring lawmakers to turn over data that would redraw the state's congressional map.

In a letter to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which struck down the map, state Sen. Joe Scarnati on Wednesday called the order unconstitutional and said he would not comply.

"In light of the unconstitutionality of the court's orders and the court's plain intent to usurp the General Assembly's constitutionally delegated role of drafting Pennsylvania's congressional district plan, Senator Scarnati will not be turning over any data identified in the court's orders," wrote Brian Paszamant, Scarnati's attorney.

The court threw out the Republican-drawn map last week, ruling that districts "clearly, plainly and palpably" violate the state's constitution and ordering that the map be redrawn in the next three weeks. If they fail to meet this deadline, the court will then draw its own map, with input from the parties.

Republicans control 12 congressional districts, while Democrats control five. (Another district is the subject of a special election next month.)

Republican state lawmakers have filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court to stay the order, and accused the court of "attempting to play the role of 'lawmaker'" by striking down the map.

"As President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, Senator Scarnati swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of the United States, which is exactly what he is doing by this action," Scarnati's chief of staff, Drew Crompton, said in a statement. "The Federal Elections Clause unambiguously vests exclusive authority over congressional elections in the state legislatures, subject only to limitations imposed by the United States Congress."

Last month, federal judges said North Carolina will have to quickly redraw its 13 congressional districts because the map is unconstitutionally partisan.

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