U.S. Supreme Court denies Pennsylvania GOP's request to consider congressional redistricting

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 6, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court has an answer for Pennsylvania Republicans who wanted the judiciary to examine the constitutionality of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s decision to redraw its congressional districting map: “No.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued an opinion Monday denying such an application filed by high-ranking members of the state GOP – a move that will have dramatic implications on the 2018 mid-term congressional elections, where a number of seats in the House of Representatives are potentially up for grabs.

On Jan. 22, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania initially ordered the state’s map of 18 congressional districts was unfairly gerrymandered to benefit Republican candidates and must be redrawn by Feb. 9.

The decision, the first ruling from a state court addressing gerrymandering, now puts the onus on the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania State Legislature to redraw the district map by the above date and for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to submit it to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania by Feb. 15.

In the event that deadline is not met, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania said it would take the responsibility upon itself of adopting a plan to ensure the May primary election, the first one to be affected by the changed map, is conducted properly.

In a follow-up order issued by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Jan. 26, the judiciary stated it was already making preparations to draft and adopt its own congressional redistricting map “in anticipation of the possible eventuality that the General Assembly and the Governor do not enact a remedial congressional districting plan” in the time period established by its initial Jan. 22 order.

Attorney Brian S. Paszamant of Blank Rome in Philadelphia wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on State Senate President Joseph Scarnati’s behalf last week, to express his opposition to their recent orders and the Feb. 9 deadline associated with them. The letter also stated Scarnati would not cooperate with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s request for information needed to redraw the congressional map.

Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai had filed a request for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to stay its own order, a mandatory first step before their contacting the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scarnati and Turzai believe the initial Jan. 22 order violated the U.S. Constitution’s Election Clause, which stipulates “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations”, and that state courts such as the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania do not have the proper authority to consider the issue.

Per Justice Alito’s order, the nation’s high court did not agree.

The U.S. Supreme Court is already considering cases connected to the constitutionality of gerrymandering in Maryland and Wisconsin, and recently stayed an order which gave North Carolina legislators only two weeks to redraw congressional districts in that state.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case 159 MM 2017

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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