Supreme Court Releases Majority Opinion in Redistricting Case

Aaron Brown
February 10, 2018

To try to get around that obstacle, Pennsylvania Republicans argued that the state court ruling violated the U.S. Constitution by stripping the legislature of its power to draw voting maps. The Republican Party also pled for extensions for redrawing the map, hoping to make it impossible to have the new map go into effect this year, however officials have said the changes must occur in enough time for the important midterm elections.

"The Republican legislative leaders in the House and Senate have agreed to a congressional district map that complies fully with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's order and opinion", Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai said in a joint statement late on Friday.

Wolf will then have until Thursday to tell the justices if he supports it.

The court found the state's congressional district boundaries to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

This is the only state in 2018 where court rulings on extreme Republican-led gerrymandering are poised to see new U.S. House districts created that would lead to fairer elections-and likely Democratic pickup of several seats.

The opinion - which was released Wednesday night, took 139 pages and is one of four issued in the case - gives legislators new guidelines for drawing boundaries on a congressional map that must be sent to the governor Friday.

Corman noted that the state Supreme Court has hired an expert from California, Nathaniel Persily, from Stanford Law School, to assist in their efforts to come up with new maps if the Legislature fails to provide them with one to review. They are seeking, Berman wrote, "to transform the state's courts by gerrymandering judicial maps to elect more Republican judges, preventing [Democratic Gov.] Cooper from making key judicial appointments, and seeking to get rid of judicial elections altogether".

Pennsylvania's congressional districts have always been recognized as among the most gerrymandered in the United States.

The Republican leaders cited Wecht's comments during his successful 2015 campaign that "gerrymandering is an absolute abomination", it is "antithetical to the concept of one person, one vote", and that the Republican domination of congressional races in the state can't be explained "without partisan gerrymandering". The first algorithm used traditional districting criteria only: population equality; contiguity; compactness; absence of splits within municipalities, unless necessary; and absence of splits within counties, unless necessary.

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The party needs to capture 24 seats nationwide to retake control of the House in November elections.

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Updike Mundy [opinions, PDF] each filed dissenting opinions. But, he said, the full opinion appears to preclude it.

"It's still early in the process ... but I'm very encouraged by what this decision could mean for the people of Pennsylvania", said Rep.

"Now, going forward when they redraw the map, when they redistrict in 2021, there are some clear guideposts that they will have to look to", he said.

Republican leaders, who were legislative defendants in the case, have criticized the court for overstepping with its decision. "Indeed, for our form of government to operate as intended, each and every Pennsylvania voter must have the same free and equal opportunity to select his or her representatives".

It has given the legislature and the governor until February 15 to "enact" a new plan.

"This decision is a victory for the voters of Pennsylvania who would have been required to vote in a fourth election under an illegal partisan gerrymander had the Court sided with the defendants", Flynn said. Despite the ongoing court battles, Lewis said he believes the State Board of Elections will be ready to open candidate filing by Monday.

Republican lawmakers may seek a delay of Friday's deadline.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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