Senate GOP will seek stay to Pa. Supreme Court redistricting decision

By a 4-3 decision, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw the lines by February 15, an extraordinarily quick timeline that will reset the districts in time for the state's May congressional primaries.

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

"The order issued by the Supreme Court today found that the congressional map violates Pennsylvania's constitution and has provided the methodology for new maps to be submitted and acted upon before the end of February", Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen said in a statement. It's possible Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf could veto the new map, which would put the job of refiguring it in the court's hands. Republicans now hold 13 of 18 congressional districts.

"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.

A new map could give Democratic candidates a chance to capture as many as half a dozen Republican seats in Pennsylvania alone, with national polls showing voters strongly favoring Democrats in 2018. Because the decision was a matter of state, and not federal law, it's unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene.

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The U.S. Supreme Court is already weighing whether to set a legal standard for partisan gerrymandering in two cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland.

It could also give the party a major boost in its quest to take back the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to net 24 seats to win control of the chamber. That Republican-led court is now looking at two other cases from Maryland and Wisconsin.

Opponents of the map argued the state legislature violated the state's constitution by drawing House districts to expressly benefit Republicans.

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. With a new Pennsylvania map, Democrats would likely have a much better opportunity to pick up several House seats. The court said in its order that that race will proceed under the old congressional map. Otherwise, the justices said they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track.

  • Adam Floyd