Supreme Court Keeps Pennsylvania Congressional Map in Place

Posted: Mar 20, 2018 8:15 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court and a panel of federal judges in Pennsylvania upheld the state’s new congressional district map on Thursday, a major loss for Republicans who tried to block the implementation of the new map. 

The state Supreme Court drafted a new congressional map after voting 5-2 along party lines that the GOP-controlled legislature’s old boundaries hurt Democratic voters and violated their constitutional rights.

Republicans then submitted an emergency appeal to stop the new map from taking effect. 

The state’s Republican legislative leaders had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the map, while eight Republican Congress members and two Republican state lawmakers separately filed a federal lawsuit in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, seeking the same remedy.

In both cases, Republicans argued only lawmakers have the power to draw voting districts. U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, had urged legislators to contest the map.

The panel of three federal judges, all appointed by Republican presidents, dismissed the Harrisburg lawsuit on Monday, finding that individual lawmakers did not have standing to bring such a complaint on behalf of the entire legislature.

The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, rejected the Republicans’ petition in a single-line order. (Reuters)

“The Plaintiffs' frustration with the process by which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court implemented its own redistricting map is plain," a three-judge panel with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania wrote in their opinion. 

"But frustration, even frustration emanating from arduous time constraints placed on the legislative process, does not accord the Plaintiffs a right to relief."

As for the Supreme Court’s denial of the GOP’s emergency request, legal experts believe it’s a sign the new map will stand. 

The new rulings mean Democrats have a much better chance at picking up several congressional seats in the state. 

The new boundaries are a boon for Democrats, who now have a stronger shot in as many as seven Pennsylvania congressional seats as they look to net 24 seats nationwide to win back the House.

Pennsylvania Republican Reps. Keith Rothfus, Ryan Costello and Brian Fitzpatrick all face far tougher roads to reelection under the new map. And the seat currently held by Rep. Patrick Meehan, who is retiring amid allegations of sexual harassment, is now seen as a likely Democratic pickup.

The boost for Democrats in those four districts — as well as improved numbers in other districts that are still seen as reaches for the party — comes as Democrats are increasingly emboldened that they can take back the House majority in 2018.  (The Hill)

While clearly disappointed, Republicans seem to have accepted the outcome.

“We continue to believe that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overstepped its authority in an unprecedented fashion when it legislated from the bench,” state House Speaker Mike Turzai told HuffPost in a statement. 

“Nonetheless, we respect the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and are prepared to move on to other issues of importance to the people of Pennsylvania.”