Federal court declines to stop state's gerrymandering fix

20 March, 2018, 04:34 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • New Pa. congressional district map upheld for now as federal judges dismiss Republican lawsuit

After the governor - now a Democrat - and the still-Republican state legislature deadlocked on a new map, the state Supreme Court drew one that made districts in the state far more compact and contiguous.

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 state Supreme Court then imposed a new map that many outside experts said still gave Republicans an edge but created more competitive districts and some more districts that are expected to favor Democrats.

On Monday, both a federal, three-judge panel in Harrisburg as well as the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request to put the new map on hold.

"Pennsylvania has always been one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation and that map contributed to the dysfunction in Washington", said Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, expected to be the party's nominee for the 6th District seat. That court's decision came without comment. Nor do the congressmen have proper standing, they said.

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Other parts of the plan include broadening education and awareness, and expanding access to proven treatment and recovery efforts. He won the state's 2016 Republican presidential primary but narrowly lost in the general election to Hillary Clinton.

The GOP took two legal routes - one before the U.S. Supreme Court and the other before the federal panel.

After lawmakers in the GOP-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf did not produce a replacement, the court enacted its own map last month and gave candidates extra time for petition gathering. "These are things that, on the present record, we can not do".

The case was brought a month ago by eight sitting Republican congressmen and two Republican state senators after the state's Democratic majority Supreme Court found the previous congressional map unconstitutional and issued their own map.

Republicans were seeking to preserve the map under which they consistently won 13 of the state's 18 House seats ― despite getting only about 50 percent of the total statewide vote in these contests and trailing Democrats in Pennsylvania's voter registration. "The people of Pennsylvania are exhausted of gerrymandering and the new map corrects past mistakes that created unfair Congressional Districts and attempted to diminish the impact of citizens' votes".

Under the new map, Democrats have a good chance to pick up three seats in the Philadelphia suburbs, and a fighting chance of flipping Republican districts in Harrisburg, Allentown and outside Pittsburgh, said Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna. "And I don't think, with today's decisions, that that confusion goes away".

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"The highest court in the nation recognized that this lawsuit was properly brought and decided as a state constitutional challenge and could not be undone by federal courts because the legislators were unhappy with the outcome", said Mimi McKenzie, legal director at the Public Interest Law Center, which helped represent the plaintiffs in the suit.

Because the ruling was based on the state's constitution and not the US Constitution, the options for opponents to challenge it were limited. That is now not going to happen. It's not just bad news for the state GOP, either, but the GOP as a whole. The redrawing process followed an order from the state's high court that the state's earlier map was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state's constitution.

More than two dozen candidates had filed petition paperwork across the state by mid-day Monday, according to state elections bureau data.

The deadline to submit at least 1,000 voter signatures to get on the primary ballot for the new districts is Tuesday (3/20).

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