A federal court has ruled against Republicans challenging a redrawn Pennsylvania congressional district map that will take effect in time for the state's May primary.
The judges also seemed to be debating whether they should intervene at all, given the similar challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. That court's decision came without comment. The U.S. Supreme Court previously refused to hear a challenge to the state high court's ruling that the previous maps were drawn in a way that violated the Pennsylvania constitution. The argument that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stepped on the legislature's rights should be brought by the General Assembly as an institution, they wrote.
A request to the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of the revised map was rejected a short time later.
They said the court was not in position "to opine on the appropriate balance of power between the Commonwealth's legislature and judiciary in redistricting matters, and then to pass judgment on the propriety of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's actions under the U.S. Constitution".
"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 Turzai, R, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R. The three elections for which it was used consistently produced a delegation of 13 Republicans for the state's 18 congressional seats, despite a Democratic voter edge.
The Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court had ruled in January that a map Republicans crafted in 2011 amounted to an unconstitutional gerrymander. "Democrats only need 23 to retake the majority in the House, so this is one big chunk". The state court then imposed the new map, drawn with the help of an outside expert, after the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor couldn't agree on a new set of districts by a February 9 deadline.
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On a practical note, we are almost through the entire period of petition signing and there are already candidates filed in most of the districts outlined by the state Supreme Court.
The justices allowed the map to stand in a brief order denying a request for an emergency stay of enforcement. Observers said Alito's denial was a signal he did not think the GOP request had much merit. Pennsylvania, traditionally a purple state, has a legislature controlled by Republicans, a Democratic governor and a US senator from each party. They wanted the new map put on hold while they pursued an appeal to the nation's highest court.
College senior Gabe Solomon was in favor of the Supreme Court decision, and explained that he thought the new map was more fair and representational of "Pennsylvania's political identity".
"We are upset by the decisions today of the three judge panel in Middle District Court and the US Supreme Court regarding redistricting".
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.
The Republicans in the federal lawsuit - eight Pennsylvania congressmen and two state senators - had asked the court to reuse the previous map, adopted in 2011, for one more election cycle while the new map was challenged in the courts.