GOP asks Supreme Court to block new Pennsylvania congressional maps

Pennsylvania Republicans are asking the US Supreme Court to block new congressional maps that would tilt several key ...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 9:39 AM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 9:39 AM

Pennsylvania Republicans are asking the US Supreme Court to block new congressional maps that would tilt several key races in Democrats' favor from being used in this year's midterm elections.

The GOP leaders of the state House and Senate asked Tuesday for an emergency stay blocking the implementation of the maps, which were unveiled this month by the state Supreme Court after it ruled that the previous maps had been gerrymandered in violation of Pennsylvania's Constitution.

It's a final effort to stop major changes to a congressional delegation that now comprises 13 Republican-held seats and five Democrats.

Lawyers for House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati argue that the state's high court overstepped its authority in setting a deadline for lawmakers to draw new maps -- and then, when the GOP-led Legislature missed that deadline, producing new maps on its own.

In court papers, their lawyers said the state court's move "blatantly usurps the power of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and inflicts confusion on the Commonwealth's upcoming congressional elections."

"Not only did the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violate the Elections Clause by adopting new congressional districting criteria from whole cloth, but also by implementing a remedial phase that did not give the General Assembly an 'adequate opportunity' to enact a new map," they argued.

National Republicans and Democrats are paying close attention to the Pennsylvania developments.

The new map drawn by the state Supreme Court would mean more historically Democratic electorates in three seats in the suburbs of Philadelphia, including one region largely represented by Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and another represented in part by GOP Rep. Ryan Costello.

Republicans would also have a more difficult time holding the seats of retiring Reps. Pat Meehan and Charlie Dent under the new maps. Other districts -- including one west of Pittsburgh -- could become newly competitive.

President Donald Trump had urged the state Republicans to appeal.

"Hope Republicans in the Great State of Pennsylvania challenge the new 'pushed' Congressional Map, all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary," Trump tweeted last week. "Your Original was correct! Don't let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!"

The Supreme Court previously refused to step into the Pennsylvania case, and election law experts believe the latest filing with the Supreme Court is a long shot.

"Because this was a case decided under the state constitution by the state supreme court, the usual path for review of this case by the US Supreme Court is limited," wrote Richard L. Hasen, an elections law expert at the University of California, Irvine.

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