Supreme Court won't block new Pennsylvania congressional map
By Justin Gest
A statement from the court said a request to stay a ruling from the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court had been denied without comment or recorded dissent. The state Supreme Court ruled the previous map, drawn by Republicans in the state Legislature and signed into law by then-GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state's constitution.
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The court’s statement followed an order from a three-judge panel earlier Monday turning down a Republican request to halt the new map at a federal district court in Pennsylvania — and essentially leaves Republicans with little recourse to stop the new district lines before the May 15 primary elections.
The filing deadline for candidates running under the new map is Tuesday. The new map, drawn by the state Supreme Court, weakens Republicans’ hold on a number of seats, especially in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Behind the scenes, Republican consultants prepared their clients for the new maps to stand, even as GOP congressmen and state legislative leaders sought relief from the courts. One GOP incumbent who saw his district become more Democratic under the new lines, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), is reportedly considering retiring rather than filing for reelection before Tuesday’s deadline.
It's the second time Republicans have failed to halt the state Supreme Court’s actions at the federal high court. The GOP initially applied for a stay after the state Supreme Court threw out the old map, but Justice Samuel Alito rejected that effort last month.
After the state Supreme Court drew a map that unwound the GOP-friendly lines — on the new map, President Donald Trump would have carried 10 of the state’s 18 congressional seats, versus 12 on the old map — Republicans tried again, with urging from Trump himself.
"Hope Republicans in the Great State of Pennsylvania challenge the new 'pushed' Congressional Map, all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary," Trump tweeted last month. "Your Original was correct! Don’t let the Dems take elections away from you ..."
The high court could still agree to hear the case, even after denying Republicans' stay application. But none of the court's nine justices dissented for the record on Monday to indicate openness to reversing the state Supreme Court's actions.
Republicans in Harrisburg expressed disappointment Monday with the dual court rulings leaving the map in place.
"We are upset by the decisions today of the three judge panel in Middle District Court and the U.S. Supreme Court regarding redistricting. It is disappointing that the U.S. Supreme Court did not intervene," said GOP state Sens. Joe Scarnati, Jake Corman and Mike Folmer in a joint statement, noting that the district court case "was dismissed on the legal issue of standing," and not on the merits of the case.
“We still believe these issues in this case are vital constitutional questions that deserve to be heard, including the [state] Supreme Court taking on the role of creating legislation," the statement continued, insisting the state Supreme Court's decision to draw the maps itself "takes us down a path for the creation of another legislative body in Pennsylvania.”
Democrats, meanwhile, celebrated the decisions.
“Today’s two court rulings, including one from the United States Supreme Court, are important victories for the citizens of Pennsylvania and the fight against gerrymandering," said former Attorney General Eric Holder, the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. "This November, Pennsylvanians will finally have the opportunity to vote for a congressional delegation on a fair map. By fighting against a fair map drawn by an independent court, Republicans have shown they are afraid of the very voters they claim they want to represent.”
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.